Larry Hodges' Blog and Tip of the Week will normally go up on Mondays by 1:00 PM USA Eastern time. Larry is a member of the U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame, a USATT Certified National Coach, a professional coach at the Maryland Table Tennis Center (USA), and author of  eight books and over 1900 articles on table tennis. Here is his bio. (Larry was awarded the USATT Lifetime Achievement Award in July, 2018.)
NOTE - Larry is on the USATT Coaching Committee, but the views he shares in his blog are his own, and do not necessarily represent the views of USA Table Tennis.

Make sure to order your copy of Larry's best-selling book, Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers!
Finally, a tactics book on this most tactical of sports!!!
Also out - Table Tennis TipsMore Table Tennis Tips, and Still More Table Tennis Tips, which cover, in logical progression, his Tips of the Week from 2011-2013, 2014-2016, and 2017-2020, with 150 Tips in each!

Or, for a combination of Tales of our sport and Technique articles, try Table Tennis Tales & Techniques
If you are in the mood for inspirational fiction, The Spirit of Pong is also out - a fantasy story about an American who goes to China to learn the secrets of table tennis, trains with the spirits of past champions, and faces betrayal and great peril as he battles for glory but faces utter defeat. Read the First Two Chapters for free!

March 9, 2020

Tip of the Week
Proper Forehand Technique - Circling and From Side.

The Height of a High-Toss Serve
The question that has plagued the world for many centuries is just how high you should toss a high-toss serve. After all, the higher you toss it, the faster it'll be traveling when you contact it, giving you more spin, right? 

Actually, not really. Due to air resistance, any falling object in an atmosphere has a terminal velocity, but it varies based on its mass, cross-sectional area, drag co-efficient, air density, and gravity. For example, a little Googling tells us that a human body reaches terminal velocity in around 12 seconds - about 200 mph if falling feet- or head-first, about 125 mph if falling stomach- or back-first, with arms and legs spread out to maximize air resistance.

But how about a ping-pong ball? I found this online Terminal Velocity Calculator. For a ping-pong ball, the mass is 2.7 grams. The cross-section area is easy to calculate - it's the area of a circle with the diameter of a ping-pong ball, 40mm. Since A=Πr^2, and with radius 20mm, the cross-section area is about 1256.6 m^2. Some Googling found that the drag co-efficient for a sphere is about 0.5. Plugging these in, and using Earth's gravity and air density at sea level, we find that the terminal velocity of a ping-pong ball is about 18.55 mph.

But this doesn't tell us how high we have to throw the ball to get this maximum velocity. So I turned to my brother, Dr. Steven Hodges, a physicist and non-TT player (but great sailor!). He created this Excel file that does it for us.

So how high do you have to throw the ball to get to that magical 18.55 mph? Here's how my brother answered it - the first paragraph tells you most of what you need to know, the next rest are technical details.

Really, really high; falling objects approach terminal velocity asymptotically so, like Zeno, they never quite get there. But there is an answer to the practical question, how high do you need to throw the ball so when it falls back to the paddle (assuming the starting toss and paddle heights are the same) it is at, say, 90% terminal velocity.  The answer to that question is, using the parameters you provided below, about 20 ft.  If you want 99% of terminal velocity, throw the ball 40 ft high.

The attached spreadsheet shows the details.  Inputs are in red in cells C4 thru C7.  Terminal velocity is in C17 (ft/s), E17 (m/s), and G17 (mph).  The time from the ball's highest point (i.e., the height you throw it to, your input C6) to when it's back at the paddle is C19.  

If you change height thrown (C6) from 20 to 10 ft, the ball will only be at about 75% (between 74 and 79%) terminal when it gets back to the paddle.  You can find this by looking for the row where the height y(t) goes negative - y=0 is at the paddle; the fraction of terminal velocity is in column D.  

You can also play with the coefficient of drag to get an idea of how robust the model is. If CD is increased, you don't have to throw the ball as high to get a given fraction of terminal velocity, and vice versa.

Of course, this is all an approximation.  Probably good enough for what you're looking for, but the reality is much more complicated because the drag coefficient, air density, and even the ball shape, are not really constants - they vary during the fall.  So more exact solutions require simulations.  Here's an example that hints at the complexities involved: 

So there is our answer! In practical terms, I think most high-tossers throw the ball up at most ten feet, which gets the ball to 13.9mph. (If you throw much higher than this, you start to lose control and can't keep the ball low or skim it finely for maximum spin. Also, it's harder to be deceptive since if the ball is moving too fast, you can't do deceptive racket motions around contact and still control the grazing contact.) However, I am pretty sure some players have been known to toss the ball up to 20 feet (16.7mph), though it's probably hard to control. My club has 18-foot ceilings, and for fun I've done tosses that reach them - but since the toss is measured from where you toss the ball from and contact it, about three feet above the ground, that means a 15-foot toss. 

Here's video of the high-toss serve of Ma Long of China, the world #1 almost continuously from 2010-2019. Alas, I couldn’t find a video of anyone showing just how high it goes. (When they video top players, they zoom in, not out.) But you can tell it goes pretty high by how long he has to wait for it to come down. Here's a pretty high one by Shan Xiaona of Germany (world #50, formerly #14), but it also cuts off the highest part of the serve.

USATT Regional Hopes Camp and Tournament at MDTTC
See the link in Omnipong in the USATT section at the top for The 2020 USATT Hopes Program / Road to LA - MD. It's this weekend at my club, Maryland Table Tennis Center. I'll be coaching in the camp on Friday and Saturday, and running the Hopes Tournament on Sunday. This is for kids born in 2008 or after.

USA Table Tennis Teleconference Scheduled for Monday, March 9, 8:00 pm EDT
Here's the info page. Yes, it's tonight (Monday night)! I will probably listen in. As I wrote in my comment below this, I hope they will publish the agenda in advance (UPDATE - it's been added!), as well as put in the names of the current board in the Board Listing, which currently only has two of them, Niraj Oak and Tara Profitt. There are at least five right now - three others were named in this USATT news item on Jan. 31, Richard Char, Kristy Connelly Campbell and Kelly Watson. Even if they can't get their pictures up right away, it would be helpful to update the names, since they've been on the board for over five weeks now.

Coronavirus and Table Tennis
It's getting pretty serious! Many clubs around the country and the world have cancelled events because of it. Because there were three cases of it here in Montgomery County, MD, some of the local Chinese Schools closed this past weekend, and because of parents' concerns, our advanced junior program (Talent Development Program) cancelled their group session this past Sunday. My Thursday and Sunday Beginning Classes normally have 14 and 10 players, but both had only seven this time. For both, I was told it was because of coronavirus concerns. (In both of these junior classes, the focus was on pushing and smashing.) I've heard that players have taken to fist bumps or even "air bumps" rather than shaking hands - and I've adopted fist bumps as well.

I'm heard private estimates that it's 50-50 the Olympics in Tokyo will be postponed or cancelled, though I have no idea how accurate these estimate are. (I'm supposed to fly out to do USATT coverage on July 23.) Here's an article on it from the BBC, Will coronavirus cancel the Tokyo 2020 Olympics? (Long-serving IOC member Dick Pound "last week admitted a decision to cancel could be made as late as May.") But the World Championships have already been postponed, and the Italian and Japan Opens in April and the Australian and South Korea Opens in June have also been postponed. (Here's the ITTF calendar where you can see which ones have been postponed.) C'mon, people, wash your hands - we don't want to postpone or cancel the Nationals in July!!!

Am I the only one to notice that "coronavirus" is an anagram for "carnivorous"? Very dangerous virus indeed!

USA Olympic Team Trials
In my blog last week I linked to the 16 articles I wrote on this. While there will always be debate on the format, I actually liked this format. After the various preliminaries (which got the players down to 16, for both men and women), there were two groups of eight. After they played it out, the top four went to a Final Four. The good part? The large number of high-quality matches was incredible for bringing out the best from the best, who rarely play that many that close together. It's like a month of intense training condensed into 3-4 days. Of course, the downside of such RR formats is that there's always the problem of dumping in the final rounds - partially fixed by having players from the same family or club play early, and having the top seeds play each other at the end.

I heard someone thought I got paid a bunch for this trip. Actually, I was a 100% volunteer - I didn't get paid a penny except for expenses. I came two days early and stayed two days late to do some sightseeing, but I paid for my hotel, food, and everything during that time.

As to the sightseeing in the Santa Monica/Los Angeles/Hollywood region, I visited the Walk of Fame, Hollywood Sign, Griffith Observatory, Santa Monica Pier, Hard Rock Café, Ripley's Believe It or Not, Guinness Book of Records, Hollywood Wax Museum, Paramount Pictures, La Brea Tar Pits, Los Angeles Zoo, Los Angeles Natural History Museum, California Science Center, and spent the last day at Universal Studios.

I was also on a 70-minute teleconference on Tuesday morning with the press people from the USOPC (interfering with my time at Universal Studios, grumble, grumble). Assuming the Olympics takes place on time, I'm flying to Tokyo on July 23 to do coverage for USA Table Tennis (again, as a volunteer, with only my expenses paid - I think USOPC is covering much of that, not sure).

Invitation to Members Interested in Committee Service
Here's the USATT press release. They are looking for the following:

  • Ethics and Grievance Committee (3-5 members, including the Chair)
  • Nominating and Governance Committee (1 member)

Forehand Loop Demo
Here's the video (3:30) by Dora Kurimay.

New from Tom Lodziak

New from Samson Dubina

New from eBaTT

Together and Apart, Eugene Wang and Zhang Mo Book Tokyo Places
Here's the ITTF article. There was a USA-CAN Mixed Doubles match for the North American Mixed Doubles spot at the Olympics, with Zhou Xin and Liu Juan for USA, Eugene Wang and Mo Zhang for Canada. Canada won, 4,7,-10,5 - here's the video (30:37, play actually begins around 4:30).

Qatar Open
Here's the ITTF page for the event held in Doha, Qatar, March 3-8, with complete results, articles, pictures, and video.

It's been two weeks since I last linked to their articles (since I was away last week), so why not browse the ITTF News Page?

New from Butterfly

World Table Tennis
Here's the ITTF's new World Table Tennis. See their Vision/Mission page, Key Benefits page, and Info Video (1:24).

Here's their page - "Stay in the loop, find everything table tennis. Search new or used equipment, places to play, coaches and events."

ICC Table Tennis Center Hosts USATT Hopes Tour Appropriately Coinciding with Olympic Trials
Here's the USATT article by Michael Reff.

Local Senior Athletes Find a Lifetime Sport in Table Tennis
Here's the article, featuring the Washington DC Table Tennis Center, and past owners Charlene Liu, Changping Duan, and new owner Khaleel Asgarali.

11-year-old Syrian Table Tennis Player Hend Zaza Qualifies for Olympics
Here's the article and video (1:26) from CNN. It mentions that she's 155th in the world, but that's misleading - that's her ranking for Cadets (under age 15).

Anyone Can Try Out for the U.S. Olympic Table Tennis Team, So We Did — and Here's How It Went
Here's the article from Fox Sports - but the author was not just any player, it was Martin Rogers, rated 2288 - a top player by most standards, just another amateur by Olympic standards.

USA Table Tennis Bans Hitler from Olympic Trials
Here's the video (20 sec)! Yep, I put this together, and linked to it before, but thought this was a good time to link to it again. (I also wrote, "Releasing Hitler"!)

Hypergalactic Psychic Table Tennis 3000
Here's the info page and video (1:44) for this new table tennis game! Here's their press release. I emailed with the inventor, and she wrote me, "One cool thing is that you can actually play against Al Alcorn, the original creator of Pong (the very first video game!) - when we reached out to him about the game, he jokingly sent us a voice message saying 'Oh my God, what have you done to my Pong?!' but also really loved it and thanked us for caring about Pong, and said 'have fun with it'..."

Here's what one reviewer wrote:
"Hypergalactic Psychic Table Tennis 3000 is a game of pong with a few twists. It starts out as simple pong but you soon start leveling up which allows you to increase your size and learn skills. Keep playing and battling and you'll soon be shooting fireballs, teleporting, and reading minds. There are a variety of enemies that you face over the course of the game. Each game you play to three vs the AI. There are two hundred levels in a loop and after that you can either new game plus it or you can start from scratch. You can also go through romance dialogues with the bosses. You hit a boss every ten levels or so; so that makes 20 romancable paddles. You can stylize yourself with fancy treasure you find along the way which is neat."

New from Coach Jon

New from the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association
They've been busy, holding their regionals.

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel

2019 ITTF Parkinson World Table Tennis Championships
Here's the highlights video (2:46). I coached Navin Kumar at the tournament - Silver in Doubles, Bronze in Singles. (You can see me briefly at 1:43 on the right.)

Chen Xingtong | Ask A Pro Anything
Here's the ITTF video (5:05) from Adam Bobrow.

New from Pongfinity
No humorous videos this week - instead, it's video of one of their players, Miikka O'Connor (world #845, but #439 last year), from the Finnish Championships! He made it to the final before losing to World #95 Benedek Olah.

Kim Taek Soo vs. Jang Woojin Exhibition
Here's the video (11:38), both from South Korea. Woojin is world #16. Kim was a big star in the 1990s - here's his Wikipedia entry. Check out his Medal Record on the right, and you'll notice something extraordinary. At the Olympics, he won two medals (Singles and Doubles), both Bronze. At the World Championships, he won nine medals - one for Singles, four each for Doubles and Teams - and all nine are also Bronze! Then you go to the World Cup for Singles, and he has three medals - all Silver! He did win Gold at the World Cup and Asian Championships, twice each for Doubles and Teams. I believe he reached #3 in the world. He is now the head coach for the South Korean Men's Team.

Engineers Design 3D-Printed Table Tennis Paddles for Oculus Touch Controllers
Here's the article and videos!

Amazing Kids - Game Show Table Tennis in China
Here's the video (3:19)! It's in Chinese with English subtitles.

Three-Paddle Pong
Here's the video (16 sec) featuring a "cheating" Matt Hetherington.

Z Table Pong
Here's the video (3:39)!

Ellen DeGeneres Challenges Child Ping-Pong Star Yiyi as Melissa McCarthy Refs
Here's the video (4:17)!

Happy Table Tennis Birthday
Here's the video (1:23) of the table tennis birthday song!

Send us your own coaching news!

March 2, 2020

Tip of the Week
Drill the Fundamentals and the Specifics.

Santa Monica and the US Olympic Trials
I spent the last five days here in Santa Monica, California, doing coverage of the US Olympic Trials - 16 articles in all. See links below or visit the USATT News page. I flew in last Monday night (Feb. 24), and did sightseeing in LA and Hollywood for two days, did four days of coverage, and now I've got two more days of sightseeing before I fly home Tuesday night on an 11PM flight. So far I've visited the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Hollywood Sign, Griffith Observatory, Santa Monica Pier, Hard Rock Café, Ripley's Believe It or Not, Guinness Book of Records, Hollywood Wax Museum, La Brea Tar Pits and Museum, and did the Paramount Pictures tour. Today I'm visiting the LA Zoo and the Natural History Museum of LA County. Tuesday I'm taking the Universal Studios tour and theme park.

Had a great four days working with the USATT and US Trials Staff, the players, and with master photographer Bruce Liu! Here's a picture of us at work (here's the non-Facebook version) - but if he's in the picture, who's taking the picture? (Thank you, Kathleen!)

So just a short blog today. I'll be back next Monday. But here are direct links to all 16 of the articles I wrote on the Trials - find out who made the US Olympic Team! Plus a few items below that.

2020 US Olympic Trials Articles

Happy Birthday Ping Pong Song
Here's the video (25 sec)!

Non-Table Tennis - New SF Story!
The new issue of Galaxy's Edge has my story, "Blood Wars." While I called it a "SF" story above, it's really a mix of SF and fantasy. It's about a world where vampires have taken over, with humans as farm animals they raise for our blood, with corporate wars between the major blood brands. It's a satire on the Coke-Pepsi cola wars.

Send us your own coaching news!

February 24, 2020

Tip of the Week
Fundamental versus Creative Tactics.

US Olympic Trials
Here's the home page for the event, which is Feb. 27 - March 1, in Santa Monica, CA (near Los Angeles and Hollywood). It includes the event Prospective (essentially the entry form, with rules and procedures), Schedule, Seedings, Playing Format, Selection Procedures and Policies, and info on buying Tickets. Here's the Omnipong listing, which includes an incredible 20 men rated over 2500 and eight women rated over 2400. I hope all these players will be there for the Tournament meeting this Wednesday at 6PM - has there ever been a stronger gathering of US players in one room than that would be?

I'll be doing online coverage for USATT. I leave this afternoon, arriving at LA airport around 8PM. There'll be no livestreaming of the event - apparently NBC Sports has the rights and won't allow it unless we pay them a lot.  I'll probably write my first article on Wednesday night, on the Tournament Meeting and the Draws. My articles should go up on the USATT News Page.

I'm spending Tuesday, much of Wednesday, and the following Monday and Tuesday, doing sightseeing (at my own expense). I've been to LA a number of times, but never did any real sightseeing. My plans includes seeing the Hollywood sign; the Hollywood Boulevard and Walk of Fame (including the Hard Rock Café); Los Angeles Zoo; Griffith Observatory and Park; La Brea Tar Pits; Natural History Museum of LA County; Santa Monica Pier & Aquarium; and Universal Studios.

The Elite Pipeline
A good pipeline is better than a great one that's broken in one part. And once you have a good pipeline without those broken parts, you can turn it into a great pipeline. But the pipeline is only as strong as its weakest part.

To develop truly elite players that can challenge the best players in the world, I believe a developmental pipeline needs four parts. I've often lamented on how USATT would sometimes focus on one part of the pipeline or another, often depending on the politics, or, sadly, the age of aspiring players whose parents were in influential positions. (Not a current or recent problem, fortunately, but there have been some horror stories.)

For most of USATT's history, one broken part of the pipeline was obvious - there simply weren't enough aspiring juniors training full-time with elite coaches, the lifeblood of elite development. And so the rest of the pipeline was damaged through lack of players before we even got started. Why was this? In 1992, MDTTC opened as the first successful full-time training center. (Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, and I founded it.) At the time, there were no others. As recently as 2007, there were only about eight. And now we have over one hundred. (I tried to get USATT involved in this in 2006, and resigned my job with them when they showed no interest in my "One Hundred Training Centers in Ten Years" plan.) We've gone from perhaps five full-time professional coaches in 1992 to probably around four hundred. There was a time when you could count on two hands how many elite juniors were really training full-time. Now the number is closer to a thousand.

Result? Our best juniors are now among the best in the world. And yet, we often lose them right when they are on the verge of challenging the best players.

So the first part of the pipeline is getting pretty good. It's not as good as, say, China, where they have far more kids training. But like I said, it's pretty good - and it gives us a fighting chance against anyone - maybe even China! But it is not easy for USATT to create such a complete pipeline due to their limited money and staff, but we can still strive to do so, taking advantage of the far greater combined resources of all of the full-time training centers, coaches, and parents in this country.

I believe there are four parts to a USATT National Developmental Pipeline. All four need to be developed to the highest level - the overall pipeline will only be as strong as the weakest of the four. They are:

  1. The Numbers Game. This part is very simple - you have to have a large number of training centers with junior programs, coaches, elite coaches, and juniors in training. This leads to a large number of kids getting introduced to the sport - and the more you have here, the more likely you are to find ones with the qualities it takes to become a champion. Note that I mention both "coaches" and "elite coaches." You need both - a large number of coaches, and enough elite coaches to work with the ones that early on show promise. They way to get elite coaches? If you have lots of coaches, the creme will rise to the top and you'll end up with some great ones. There needs to be ways to train these coaches so they can, like players, reach their potential. Many former top players, and others who have spent years coaching or in training programs, become excellent coaches.
  2. The Hopeful Hopes. This is where you turn these large numbers of kids into a smaller core group of kids, roughly ages 9-12, who train many hours with elite coaches and in general have a great training environment. They play tournaments and quickly are on the radar as the ones to watch. Having lots of training centers with elite coaches and junior programs is key. The USATT Hopes program is a great part of this program.
  3. The Long Junior Slog. This is that long period, roughly ages 12-18, where promising kids train, Train, and TRAIN, and compete, Compete, and COMPETE, and go from promising kids into contenders at the highest levels. They learn to compete with the best of their age both in the US and from around the world. To make this happen, they should be part of junior programs that train together. Those who do not have such a "peer" group usually burn out, fall behind and lose interest, and we lose them. Even if they continue, their ceiling is lower since they don't have peers pushing them to excel. During this long "slog" many kids fall behind their international peers for this reason, though not so much in recent years. These elite juniors also need training camps with their peers from around the country - there's nothing like training with your peers to spur your own training!
  4. The Last Stage - the "Right When You Are About to Make It" Moment. This link is problematic. After training for ten years or more, an 18-year-old kid is now approaching the highest levels - and suddenly has to choose between putting all that aside and going to college, or to continue to train and put off college. It's a difficult choice, and most choose college. (Some do both, but you are at a severe disadvantage if you go to college full-time and train on the side, while your rivals are training full-time. Going part-time might work better.) From an elite development point of view, this is a key stage where players go from almost making it big, to actually making it big. This is where it's important to have overseas opportunities where they can turn professional for a few years, training full-time and playing in a professional league, often in Europe, like nearly a dozen US players are currently doing. (USATT, via their High Performance Directors, has greatly helped in finding these connections, and is one of the most valuable things they do for this pipeline.) If they do this from age 18-22, they can probably reach their potential, and perhaps continue to play professionally if they choose. A key here is that we need to find ways to encourage elite players to do this, while finding ways to make it easier for them to later transition to college or (for some) perhaps coaching table tennis professionally.

Weekend Coaching
In the Thursday Beginning Class we introduced them to pushing and to down-the-line shots. In the Sunday Beginning Class we introduced them to spin serves and down-the-line shots. For both the pushing and spin serves demos I bring out the JOOLA spin balls so the players can better see the spin.

For the Saturday night junior league - which is half league, half training/coaching - several of the players needed work on specific issues, and I spent most of the two hours feeding multiball. I did the same on Sunday - lots of multiball this weekend! Some were interactive where I'd feed a specific shot to one player to get a rally started, then let them play out a point. But there was a focus on fundamentals. One girl has a bad habit of not really backswinging much when looping, so we spent a bunch of time on that. Another is great at smashing relative low balls, but misses over and over when the ball gets above his head, so we worked on that.

Hopes in Houston
This past weekend in Houston was Stop Three of the six regional stops of the USATT Hopes Program. (I'll be coaching at and running the tournament for Stop Six in Maryland.) Here are some links:

Table Tennis Community Fundraiser to Support Sally Boggan
Tim asked me to post the following update: "Sally's still left-side paralyzed, can't speak, has a feeding tube in her stomach, but can think and write well enough to respond to Tim's readings and do a daily puzzle with him." He also asked me to give "a big Thank You to everyone who's been and continues to be so encouraging to Sally and me. We much appreciate it." The GoFundMe Fundraiser has raised $6434 so far, with 58 donors. (Sally is the wife of USATT legend Tim Boggan.) I thought I'd run this one more time - Tim really appreciates the help, and it's a serious situation, both medically and financially.

History of USATT - Volume 23 - Chapters 29 and 30
Here is Chapter 29 ("International Play") and Chapter 30 ("April - May Tournaments") of Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis. (Page includes links to previous chapters.) Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at Volume 23 is 491 pages with 1841 graphics and covers all the wild things that happened in 1997-1999 - and I'm mentioned a lot! Why not buy a copy - or the entire set at a discount? Tim sells them directly, so when you order them, you get it autographed - order your copy now!

Hungarian Open
Here is the ITTF home page for the event held in Budapest, Hungary, Feb. 18-23, with complete results, articles, pictures, and video.

2020 ITTF-Africa Top 16 Cup
Here is the ITTF home page for the event held in Tunis, Tunisia, Feb. 24-26, with results, articles, pictures, and video.

New from Samson Dubina

7 Steps to Improve Your Forehand Loop (with Ferenc Horvath)
Here's the video (11:45) from Tom Lodziak.

New from eBaTT

New from Steve Hopkins

US Table Tennis Athletes Association
Here's their page about a USATT & USTTAA Potential Collaboration, from Michael McFarland.

The Class of Clearwater – Sunrise Table Tennis
Here's the article from Coach Jon.


New from the Malong Fanmade Channel (MLFM)

Jimmy Butler - Memory Lane
Here's the video (3:01).

Best Points of Russian Championships
Here's the video (4:37).

Nine Seconds of Shirt Changes and a Bottle Dunk
Here's the video!

Team China Cell Phone Tournament
Here's the video (90 sec) - they really did this!

Dive Pong
Here's the video (41 sec)!

Balancing Trick Shot
Here's the video (10 sec)!

Funny Moment of Table Tennis
Here's the video (4:30)!

Zillions of Animated Table Tennis Gif Images
Here they are!

Ping Pong Battleship Game
Here's the video (3:18) from Pongfinity! "You popped my battleship!"

Send us your own coaching news!

February 17, 2020

Tip of the Week
Footwork: Wide Stance and Two-Step?

US Olympic Trials and Round Robin Format
I blogged about this last week. I also said I'd contact the Trials Referee (Joey Yick) and ask what the rule is if a player drops out in the middle of the competition. There have been past Trials where it was ruled that if a player dropped out at any time, none of his results counted. This meant that, for example, in a Final RR of eight players, if a player had played six of his seven matches but was out of contention (as would typically be true of at least half the players), then if he had any wins over players in contention, he might be able to dramatically affect the results by simply faking an injury and dropping out. (Imagine this in the hands of an unscrupulous player.)

However, the ruling is that all matches played count, but once a player defaults, he's out of the Trials and all subsequent matches are defaults. As I've written before, there is no truly fair Trials (or elections) - there's even a math proof of this I studied in college many decades ago - so all you can do is go for the fairest, and then try to ignore nitpickers (like me!). In this case, the potential problem is a top player goes out and beats a bunch of contenders, then drops out for whatever reason. His wins over those players stand, but players he hasn't played gets a win over him. This is a potential huge advantage to some players. However, as noted, all Trials have problems in some way. Ultimately, if you want to make the Olympics (i.e. Top Two), then you have to beat nearly all of the other players.

In many cases, the case I gave above won't affect things. For example, in the Final Eight RR, suppose Xin Zhou (top seed) goes undefeated and gets the second Olympic spot, leaving the others to battle for the third and final one. (Kanak Jha already has the first, by virtue of his world ranking, and so doesn't have to try out.) Suppose Hodges defeats Seemiller in the first match, and then defaults the rest of his matches. (Ow, my shoulder!!!) Suppose Seemiller goes 5-2, with losses only to Zhou and Hodges. Suppose Sharon Alguetti also goes 5-2, losing to Seemiller and Zhou, but defeating Hodges via default. At first, it seems unfair to Seemiller, since he had to play the invincible Hodges while Alguetti got a default. After all, if Hodges had played everyone, he'd no doubt have beaten Alguetti, dropping him to 4-3 and putting Seemiller ahead of him. But it doesn't matter - in the example where Hodges defaults, Seemiller and Alguetti were both 5-2, but since Seemiller won head-to-head, so he still comes out ahead of Alguetti. So the order is unchanged - other than the fact that if Hodges hadn't had that shoulder problem and dropped out, he and Zhou would have gotten the two available spots at the Trials, and Seemiller and Alguetti could only sit back and admire their great play.

However, there are also cases where defaults do make a big difference, especially in the final round, where a player can affect things by defaulting or dumping.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to doing coverage of the US Olympic Trials. I'm flying out next Monday night (probably leaving for the airport shortly after I finish my blog), and will do a bit of sightseeing in LA and Hollywood on Tuesday before switching to coverage on Wednesday, with the Trials starting Thursday morning (Feb. 27), and finishing on Sunday (March 1).

Here's the home page for the event, and here's the final list of players - gosh, they left me out!!! So Seemiller and Alguetti are safe. (And here I was planning on beating all three Alguettis...)

Weekend Coaching
For the Thursday Beginning Class, the focus was on Spin Serves. Surprisingly, this is one of the funnest parts for many of the kids. They get pretty excited the first time they serve a backspin ball and make the ball come to a stop or even bounce backwards! There are 14 in the class; about half were able to do that at least once. Afterwards, we did a backhand-to-backhand competition - the record was 59. (There was no Sunday Beginning Class since it's President's Day Weekend - when we run such classes on three-day weekends, about half the class doesn't show.)

We started a new season for the Talent Program at MDTTC, which is the advanced junior program. Normally they play lots of matches on Saturday (most of them using various rules so they have to work on specific aspects of their games), but for this weekend, it was mostly training, both days. For me, it was Multiball Weekend as I spent most of both sessions feeding multiball. A key thing for all coaches is to have a large multiball library in their head so they can throw all sorts of drills at players. For beginners, it's more basic, but for advanced players, you sometimes want to throw more variations at them.

On Sunday, during the first hour of the session, there was a Parents meeting, where former MDTTC junior star Barbara Wei gave a talk on her experiences as an up-and-coming junior, her years on the USATT cadet and junior girls' teams, and best practices for parents in such situations. Her dad then gave a talk from his point of view and what he learned from those years. Alas, I was coaching, so didn't get to hear any of it.

Reads per Blog and Tip
Here are recent stats.

  • Feb 10 16,447 reads
  • Feb 03 17,799 reads
  • Jan 27 15,164 reads
  • Jan 20 16,635 reads
  • Jan 13 14,854 reads
  • Jan 06 15,875 reads
  • Dec 09 54,052 reads - but this covered nearly a month!
  • Dec 02 16,628 reads

Portugal Open
Here's the ITTF home page for the event held Feb. 12-16 in Lisbon, Portugal, with results, articles, photos, and video.

2020 US Nationals Returns to the Great City of Las Vegas
Here's the USATT article. Can't wait to go back!

Lily Yip Table Tennis Center Paves the Way on the Road to LA 2028
Here's the USATT article, by Matt Hetherington, about the Hopes event (for kids born in 2008 or after) held last weekend. (I was one of the coaches - I wrote about it in last week's blog. That's me in the back-left of the group picture and wandering about in the background of both videos below.) Here are two videos from the camp:

  • Lily Yip (2:41) - "The first Road to LA Hopes Camp kicks off at Lily Yip Table Tennis Center with some words of encouragement from 2-time US Olympian Lily Yip!"
  • Jayden Zhou (1:55) - "North American Hopes representative Jayden Zhou sharing his past experience at the ITTF World Hopes week with the first camp group of the 2020 US Hopes Tour!"

Spin and Smash Provides Perfect Home for US Hopes Talents on the Road to LA 2028
Here's the USATT article by Matt Hetherington.

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel (MLFM)

New from eBaTT

New from Samson Dubina

Decoding Backhand Technique
Here's the video (3:10) featuring South Korean star player (now coach) Joo Se Hyuk. In Korean with English subtitles.

How to Change Course Using Backhand
Here's the video (8:15). In Korean with English subtitles.

How to Attack High Backspin Balls
Here's the video (5:36) from Tom Lodziak.

A Little Footwork Training?
Here the video (20 sec) of Hugo Calderano of Brazil (world #7). What, you can't do this? What's wrong with you?

Walking and Chewing Gum in Table Tennis
Here's the article from Coach Jon.

New from Steve Hopkins

USATT Extends Thanks to Coronavirus Aid Donors and Supporters
Here's USATT article.

Chinese National Team Training in Qatar amidst Coronavirus Outbreak in China
Here's the video (11:05). "Due to the widespread outbreak of the Novel Coronavirus across China, the ITTF and Qatar Table Tennis Association helped to arrange a high-quality training environment for the Chinese National Team in Doha with just a single day’s notice."


Nittaku Monthly Pongcast - January 2020
Here's the video (17:05).

Beltway Plaza's "Have a Heart" Table Tennis Tournament
Here's the flyer/poster for the event held this past Saturday to benefit the American Heart Association. Navin Kumar was the featured player. They raised $5383. Here's a picture of Navin and others with the big check! (Here's the non-Facebook version.) You can see more pictures and videos on Navin's Facebook page.

Ping Pong and Going Strong: Seniors Still Got It at Table Tennis Club in Medford
Here's the video (3 min) from NBC in Boston.

Episode 11 - Everybody's Trying for the Olympics
Here's the podcast (76 min), episode #11 from Table Tennis Talk.

Ping Pong, Vol. 1
Here's the new table tennis graphic art book, coming out on May 19 - looks interesting! But sort of expensive at $29.99, though it is 520 pages. Not sure when Vol. 2 comes out. "Ace high school table tennis players push their passion to the limit in this story of self-discovery, told by Eisner Award winner Taiyo Matsumoto. Makoto "Smile" Tsukimoto doesn’t smile even though he’s got a natural talent for playing ping pong. As one of the best players in school, all hopes are on him to win the regional high school tournament, but winning is not what Smile really wants to do. Will the fierce competition to be number one bring out his best or drive him away from the game? Ping Pong is Taiyo Matsumoto’s masterwork reflection on friendship and self-discovery, presented here in two volumes, featuring color art, the bonus story Tamura and an afterward by the original Japanese series editor."

Tomahawk Racket Flip Serve
Here's the video (11 sec), from Adam Bobrow - watch closely!

Handy Looper
Here's the video (30 sec) - watch the kid on the left about five seconds in, when he serves. He drops his racket, but unfazed, follows his serve with a winning forehand loop using just his hand!

Table Tennis Anytime Anywhere
Here's the video (14 sec)! Who needs rackets or balls when you have a picnic table and a little imagination? (Shadow practice like this is actually very good practice.)

Furniture Pong
Here's the video (12 sec) - you too can use a few cabinets to work on your side-to-side footwork!

Table Tennis Tricks - This guy makes it look so easy
Here's the video (28 sec)!

Richie Rich Ping-Pong Covers
I found two:

Sonic the Hedgehog: Ping-Pong Player
I saw the movie a few days ago - and loved the table tennis scene! Below are various speedsters playing table tennis "alone" by racing in a circle around the table.

Sumo Ping Pong
Here's the video (6:21) from Pongfinity!

Send us your own coaching news!

February 10, 2020

Tip of the Week
Stepping Around the Backhand Corner.

US Hopes Camp and Tournament in New Jersey
I spent the weekend coaching at the Regional Hopes Camp and Tournament at the Lily Yip TTC in New Jersey, about four hours north of me. The event was the first of six such regional events, help in six consecutive weekends, for players born in 2008 or later (so mostly age 11 and below). The next five will be in Ohio, Texas, California, Massachusetts, and Maryland. (I'll be coaching at that one and running the tournament.) Here is the USATT Hopes page, with full info and schedule. (There's a chance I might be going to the Ohio one next weekend in Columbus to coach.) There will then be a National Hopes Camp and Tournament (April 22-26 at the Samson Dubina TTC in Akron, OH, for players who make the Final Four at any of the Regionals - once a player does that, he cannot complete in future ones), a North American Hopes Camp and Tournament in May (time and place not yet set), and finally an International one (in August, held overseas).

The Lily Yip TTC did an excellent job with the camp and tournament, with Lily Yip (Olympian), Cory Eider, Judy Hugh, Matt Hetherington, and a number of local practice partners. Lily gave a motivational speech at the start about what it meant to be an Olympian. Everything ran smoothly and professionally and the training was excellent. Here's a photo gallery by Matt Hetherington. 

I went up to coach the three Maryland kids, Stanley Hsu (11, 2289, top seed, #1 in country), Mu Du (11, 2012, second seed, #4 in country), and Ryan Lin (10, 1825, seventh seed, #13 in country but still eligible next year). Arjun Kumar (8, 1394, #3 in country in Under 10), who is from Philadelphia but trains on Sundays at MDTTC, was also with us, coached by his dad. Here's a group picture. Back: Wang Qingliang and I. Front, L-R: Arjun, Ryan, Mu Du, Stanley.

When I walked in the door, I was recruited to join the coaching staff, so I joined them for all the three training sessions on Friday night and Saturday, 7.5 hours, both as a "walk around" coach and feeding multiball.

The Lily Yip TTC is two floors with (for training) 26 total tables. They divided the players into two groups, with the top half on the first floor, the others on the second floor. I spent the first session with the lower group, and the next two sessions mostly with the upper group (which Cory mostly ran, with my assisting). They had lots of interesting drills. One that stuck with me was a variation of up-down tables that Cory used. Both here and at my club in Maryland (MDTTC), we often have the kids compete with improvised games. For example, a player must serve short backspin, receiver must push long (sometimes to a specific spot), and the looper has to loop (sometimes to a specific spot), then play out point. I usually do this with standard 11-point games. Here, they had them play old-fashioned games to 21, with each player serving five times. Why? Because it's easier to get into a rhythm when you do it five times instead of just two times, and so you learn better.

In the tournament, the Maryland kids did well. (Coach Wang Qingliang, a fellow coach from MDTTC and a member of the USATT National Coach Development Team), drove up Saturday night to coach along with me on Sunday.) Here are results. The final was Stanley versus Mu Du, with Stanley winning 3-1. Ryan didn't make the final eight, but he won the Consolation Event for third-place finishers. (There were 19 boys in the tournament, with three groups of five, one of four, with the top two from each group advancing to the quarterfinals, the next player to the Group Three Consolation, and so on. There were five girls, who played a complete RR.) Here's a picture of the Boys' Final Four. L-R: Judy Hugh, Mu Du, Cory Eider, Stanley Hsu, Dhruv Chopra, Krish Gandhi, and Lily Yip.

US Olympic Trials and Format
They will be held in Santa Monica, CA, Feb. 27 - March 1. I'm looking forward to them - I'll be doing coverage, so prepare yourself for a barrage of articles!

In recent years, the format for most Team Trials has been versions of the Single Elimination format. With this, they would run a single elimination tournament for (usually) three consecutive days. The winner each day makes the team and doesn't take part on subsequent days. The winner of the first day is #1 on the team, and so on. If there are four spots, then the two finalists on day one make the team, as #1 and #2. (I think there have been variations of this.) The US Olympic Trials will only select two players, so with this system, they'd only have two single elimination events, so not as many matches as with RR. Some players might only play two matches, though if a player goes 0-2, he probably wasn't going to make the final two. 

The strength of this system is that players rarely have incentive to dump matches to help another player. The weakness is that a player could (for example) lose in the first round the first day and then win the second day, thereby making the team, while another player might finish second both days and not make the team - despite the latter player having a much better overall record. For example, if I remember correctly, Sharon Alguetti made the finals two out of three days at the 2016 North American Olympic Trials, yet didn't make it. (I can't find online results - the links on the 2016 North Olympic Trials page are no longer valid. But email me if you have them!)

This year at the US Olympic Trials they are going back to Giant RRs. At first glance, this seems the fairest way - after all, everyone plays everyone else, and the best players will have the best record and so you get the best players on the team. That's what usually happens - but I put usually in italics because that's not what always happens. For example, a player who is out of contention has less incentive to fight hard and might even dump matches to friends and teammates to help them make the team. (Worse yet, there might be bribes involved.) Or a player who has clinched his spot may dump to a friend to help him make the team.

I know of at least three instances where players have dumped matches either to help a friend or hurt someone they didn't want to advance. The most infamous became know as "Black Saturday," circa forty years ago, when a player out of contention openly dumped to a player to help a friend and practice partner. At one Trials, I watched two players openly calculate how many games they needed to dump to a player to ensure another player wouldn't advance. At another I watched a player who had clinched his spot dump a match to someone to keep another player from making the team - he denied it, but it was obvious to us watching.

Or a player may be injured at some point and have to drop out - so the players getting the default have a big advantage over those who might have lost to this player before he dropped out. Or they might completely remove this player's results - in which case it can completely change the results of who makes the team. I couldn't find anything in the procedures for what happens if a player drops out after play some matches.

At one Olympic Trials a number of years ago, there was a final RR of twelve players. One player was out of contention and had one match left. He complained of an injury and wanted to drop out. The rules at the time stated that if a player didn't play all his matches, then all of his matches became defaults. I was doing coverage, and quickly pointed out to the referee that if he did so, another player who had clinched his spot would suddenly be off the team, while another who had been eliminated would take his place. In the end, the "injured" player played his match. (I think the "standard" used to be that if a player played the majority of his matches and defaulted the rest, they all count; if he dropped out after playing less than half, then none count. But I don't know what the rules are for these Trials. I will check on this later. (There might be a rule covering this in the ITTF handbook, but nothing came up covering this when I searched using the words "default" and "withdrawal." I emailed the US Olympic Trials referee asking this question, and will post here when/if I get a response.)

Trying to decide on a format isn't an easy decision. I remember studying in college the mathematical proof that showed that there are no truly fair Trials or Election procedures - all have problems as well as advantages. So all you can do is choose the one that one considers least flawed.

Here's a Facebook posting by five-time US Men's Champion Dan Seemiller, which he also posted in the comments section at the US Olympic Trials page. For those not on Facebook, here's what he wrote.

"I believe the format is flawed. A huge R/R is conducive to manipulation. Some players when they play will still be in it and others already eliminated. Not a level playing field. In the final stages it is likely no final. It is possible and I've seen it happen where friends have to play friends and a 3rd player is relying on the results. I find it hard to believe the Olympic committee OK'd this format. Two S/E tourneys have been done the past few trials and no controversy whatsoever. You want to lose so be it. In the R/R a player can drop out with a sore shoulder and their results are dropped changing others' positions. The Olympics are S/E why not the trials?"

Universal 2020 ITTF Pan America Cup
Here's the ITTF home page for the event held Feb. 7-9 in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, with complete results, stories, pictures, and video. See also:

CCB 2020 Europe Top 16 Cup
Here's the ITTF home page for the event held Feb. 8-9 in Montreux, Switzerland. See also:

Spanish Open
Here's the ITTF home page for the event held Feb. 4-8 in Granada, Spain, with complete results, stories, pictures, and video. See also:

Table Tennis Community Fundraiser to Support Sally Boggan
The GoFundMe Fundraiser has raised $5834 so far, with 54 donors. (Sally is the wife of USATT legend Tim Boggan.) I thought I'd run this one more time - Tim really appreciates the help, and it's a serious situation, both medically and financially. This help has really raised Tim's spirits!

History of USATT - Volume 23 - Chapter 28
Here is Chapter 28 of Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, "Jan - March Tournaments." (Page includes links to previous chapters.) Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at Volume 23 is 491 pages with 1841 graphics and covers all the wild things that happened in 1997-1999 - and I'm mentioned a lot! Why not buy a copy - or the entire set at a discount? Tim sells them directly, so when you order them, you get it autographed - order your copy now!

Dan Seemiller's 2020 Olympic Preparation
It's approaching showtime for the US Olympic Trials (Feb. 27 - March 1), and the legendary five-time US Men's Singles Champion Dan Seemiller could still use your help! Here's his GoFundMe page ($13,180 raised out of $15,000 needed) and his book, Revelations of a Ping-Pong Champion. Can a 65-year-old make the Olympics? Or perhaps take out a few contenders? Stay tuned!

Talking with Dan Seemiller
Here's the podcast (65 min) from Table Tennis Talk.

USATT News (with some duplication from the tournament segments above)

New from Steve Hopkins (with some duplication from the tournament segments above)

New from Samson Dubina

Should I Train or Play Matches
Here's the article. I like the book they recommend!

Bad Technique, Unorthodox Technique, Good Technique, Great Technique
Here's the article from Tom Lodziak.

Table Tennis Pro Training (with Ojo Onaolapo)
Here's the video (21:51) from Louis Levene.

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel (MLFM)

Pitchford & Walker Talk Mental Health & Well-Being
Here's the article and podcast (21:46) from the English table tennis Olympians.

3 Steps to Master the Around the Net Shot
Here's the video (8:49).

Ma Long Slow Motion
Here's the video (4:17).

Ask A Pro Anything | Tomislav Pucar
Here's the ITTF video (4:42) from Adam Bobrow, with the world #32 from Croatia.

Quadri Aruna and Dina Meshref Head Seeding in Tunisia
Here's the ITTF article.

Xu Xin wins STIGA Point of Day 4 | 2020 German Open
Here's the video (33 sec) as he pulls off a behind-the-back shot and wins the point against Ma Long!

The Ping Pong Pecking Order
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

Family Trick Shot Night
Here's the video (16 sec), with Arcot, Sid, Nandan Naresh and Sangita Santhanam! (This runs fine on my laptop, but strangely, when I run it on my desktop it comes out choppy.) Here's a bonus trick shot from Nandan (6 sec)!

The Biggest Table Tennis Fail of 2020 So Far
Here's the video (26 sec)!

Chair Pong
Here's the video (15 sec)!

Table Tennis Alone
Here's the video (6 sec)! I often do this trick in exhibitions. (Pongfinity also demonstrates this and other ways to play solo - see link below.)

Table Tennis with Hospital Patients
Here's the video (26 sec)!

Funny Table Tennis Cartoon
Here's the cartoon! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Here's the cartoon! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Forrest Gump Ping Pong
Here's the video (3:52) of Seven Ways to Play By Yourself!

Send us your own coaching news!

February 3, 2020

Tip of the Week
Did He Really Force You Out of Position?

USATT Introduces New Rating Access Subscription
Here's the USATT article. Here are my thoughts on this. One disclosure - I initiated and co-founded the USATT Singles League with Robert Mayer in 2003. (See the Singles segment, though I also created the Team League segment.) "Winner stay on" dominated club play back in those days, and this was a successful program to convert clubs from that into more league-based play. At the time I was told by most that changing the culture of table tennis in the US was impossible and that table tennis leagues just wasn't part of it. Well, now it is! (I will save writing about the benefits of league play for another time.)

I spoke on the phone with USATT CEO Virginia Sung on this issue for about an hour last week, as well as on future league plans. She was very interested in ideas for creating a membership-based USATT League, so I put together the draft of such a plan. The focus was learning from how it is done in European table tennis leagues and tennis in the US (where memberships are measured in the hundreds of thousands); finding USATT incentives to join (I came up with some); and making it a gradual process. More on this in a later blog. (The membership-based league would be in addition to the free one, not a replacement.) I sent the draft to her and to Robert Mayer. 

Here is the pertinent part of the announcement of the Ratings Access Subscription policy, which I've consolidated into one paragraph:

"Effective February 1, 2020, access to the USATT Rating System and Individual Rating display for both Tournaments and Leagues will only be available to current USATT members and, for a twelve-month period, to players who participate in a USATT Sanctioned Tournament on a Tournament Pass or who sign up for the new Rating Access Subscription. The twelve-month Rating Access Subscription will cost $25 and, beginning February 1, will be available for purchase through an individual’s USATT on-line profile portal. The new Ratings Access Subscription will have no effect on current USATT members and their benefits."

Here is the primary reason given:

"The new Rating Access Subscription is part of an effort by USATT to prioritize services for current members and active tournament participants. This effort includes an on-going project to upgrade all USATT web-based services, which will include the reduction of duplicate entries in the tournament and ratings systems and the integration of critical dates for completion of the SafeSport Tutorial and required Background Checks."

The first sentence means that USATT is trying to increase the benefits of USATT membership, hopefully leading to more members, plus of course added revenue from those who either join or pay the $25 rating access fee. I don't see how this will lead to an upgrade in USATT web-based services in the ways mentioned in the second sentence.

Here are the pluses of the new policy:

  • Incentive to become USATT member. This seems to be the primary motive - to increase the value of a USATT membership. It's a worthy goal - but is this the way to do it?
  • Added revenue. But I don't think many are going to do this, so this is rather minor. From my discussions with USATT people, this is not the motivating factor.

Here are the minuses:

  • Ill will. This has already started - just read the comments under the announcement, or at the forum (and its unscientific yet somewhat telling poll), at TableTennisDaily, and at the OOAK table tennis forum. I've heard similar irritation from many others.
  • Loss of potential members. Many non-members start out as league players, and they first go to the USATT site to check their league ratings – and that’s how they find out about USATT. (As noted above, a small percentage may join or pay the $25 fee, but probably not many. I'm told there are 35,000 league players on the USATT database, with 5000 of them active in the past year, of whom about 2000 are USATT members. Alas, until recent years only contact info for league directors was kept, so there isn't contact info for most of the 35,000.)
  • Leagues switching to non-USATT systems. Based on the comments posted, a number of league directors are already looking into this - and for every person who posts these thoughts, there are many more who aren't posting. Since there will always be free online ratings systems, it's better for USATT to have the masses use there's instead of some non-USATT one.
  • Former members who want to come back can't look up their ratings before their first tournament, so don't know what rating events they can enter. We want to make it as easy as possible for past members to come back to USATT. (I hope we're doing regular emails to them!)

Given the above, I think the minuses far outweigh the pluses. I really hope USATT will reconsider this, and instead look into other ways for creating a USATT membership-based league system, similar to what is done in in European table tennis and in tennis in the U.S. The key, I believe, is that it has to be a gradual transition, with various USATT incentives. But I'll write about that another time. I've already sent USATT my draft of how to create such a membership-based league, but it won't be an easy process.

One thing - I've heard some say that USATT is just greedy with this new policy. But that makes no sense. No one from USATT is making extra money by charging any type of rating fee. If they do get more money for USATT, that allows USATT to better fulfill their mission. Isn't that a good thing? The question isn't one of greed, but whether it is better for USATT - both as an organization and for its membership.

What is USATT's mission? Here it is, directly from the USATT bylaws, is: "The mission of USATT is to support, grow and inspire the table tennis community, and to provide resources that enable athletes to achieve sustained competitive excellence and pursue Olympic and Paralympic success."

On a side note, I was at the board meeting when they created this new Mission Statement. I'm not big on this type of thing, but the "support, grow and inspire the table tennis community" was my idea! (I think the wording was tweaked some.)

2020 Olympic Selection Procedure Update Announced by USA Table Tennis
Here's the USATT news item. Basically, the new rules are simple - the highest world-ranked man and woman from the ITTF February rankings (which go up Feb. 4, after German Open) make the Olympic Team, while the top two men and women at the US Olympic Trials get the other spots (3 men, 3 women). Here's the link to the ITTF rankings. Almost for certain Kanak Jha and Lily Zhang will get the respective men's and women's spot from world rankings. Kanak is world #27, and no other USA men are close. Lily is #26 to Wu Yue's #33, but both lost in the same round at the German Open, so their rankings should stay the same, relative to each other. Lily and Wu were both on the 2016 Olympic Team, as was Kanak.
UPDATE - in the new rankings that went up Feb. 4, Lily is #28, Wu Yue #30, so Lily makes Olympic Team, Wu Yue has to compete in Trials.) 

So Wu Yue will have to try out for the other two spots. It's going to be a tight battle. Juan Liu, rated 2650, will almost for certain get one of the spots. (Prove me wrong!) Assuming that, battling for the final spot would likely be Amy Wang (2499), Huijing Wang (2498), Wu Yue (2483), Crystal Wang (2482), Wang Chen (2450), with a few others perhaps knocking on the door, including junior girls Tiffany Ke 2297, Sarah Jalli 2294, and Linda Shu 2220. (Here is the List of Entries from Omnipong. All of those mentioned above are already entered except Amy Wang, who I believe will be entering soon. There might be more entries, including four other junior girls rated from 2302 to the 2414-rated Rachel Sung. I'll be at the Trials doing coverage for USATT.)
NOTE - The online listing of entres for the US Olympic Trials no longer shows players who entered but have not paid yet, so some of the players listed above as entered are no longer showing up, and there might be others entered that aren't shown because they haven't paid. 

This ends a rather long conflict between two opposing groups in USATT. I will call one group the "Selection" side, which wanted the "perfect" team, and so leaned toward more selections, less trials. This allows them to choose the best players against international competition, not just who is best against other US players or who played well the weekend of the Trials. It also allows them to take doubles into consideration. This is actually how it is mostly done among the best teams in the world, which are competing for medals and want to make sure they send the team that gives them the best chance. However, my argument on this has always been that since we don't really have serious medal contenders at the world-class level (are we ready to take on the top Chinese and others?), we shouldn't be in the business of choosing among non-contenders.

The other group I will call the "Trials" side, which wanted the "fairest" system, which means a Trials where the players decide completely on their own, based on results. There are always problems here - a player may get sick or injured, some are very good against other US players that they are used to playing against but not so good internationally, a player may get hot or cold on the given weekend, and it doesn't take doubles into consideration. Yet, I think this is the best system for now.

Both sides mean well, but it's led to a year or more of extreme nastiness. Alas.

I argued early on that a team where over half the players are selected rather than make the team in a trials or some other direct performance-based method wasn't sustainable. There would be just too many complaints, which is exactly what happened. The culture in the US on this type of thing is a bit different than in other countries.

There really is a third group, which I will call the "Compromisers." I'm one of those. These are the ones that think there should be perhaps one player selected, to make up for the problems outlined above for a Trials. The new system is sort of a compromise between that and the "Trials" group - by giving a spot to the #1 ranked USA man and woman, it makes sure our "best" player is there, but doesn't take into consideration doubles, or the problem if the #2 player comes up sick or injured or just doesn't play well that one weekend. There's also the problem that ITTF rankings aren't as accurate as they used to be, since they started taking participation into account a year or so ago. But if our players aren't yet "serious" medal contenders, then we shouldn't worry about that right now.

If we ever do have multiple serious medal contenders and need them together on the team so they can win in teams and doubles, as well as singles, then we might want to rethink all this. For example, no Trials is going to keep the best Chinese, Japanese, or Germans off their team at the Worlds. But we're not at that level yet. At some point we might have to define at what level is a player a "serious" medal contender. Or, if you are firmly in the "Trials" group, then perhaps not.

Weekend Coaching and Writing
Last Thursday I went to the Lake Forest Mall Eatery to get some writing done. I go there or to a nearby Wendy's about 5-6 times per week, either for lunch or dinner, and stay for several hours, writing or editing. Both have lots of open table space, wi-fi, and . . . Dr Pepper! At Lake Forest, I always get pepperoni pizza; at Wendy's, I get the barbecued chicken sandwich.

After this morning's Tip of the Week, I need exactly ten more to reach the magic 150, which I can then put together as the next in my "Tips" series. I stayed at the eatery for six hours and wrote eight Tips of the Week! (I even managed to work on a science fiction story as well. I then went straight from the mall to MDTTC to coach the Thursday Beginning Class.) Hopefully you have already bought Table Tennis Tips and More Table Tennis Tips! (Each had 150 tips.) Well, in April or May I'll have "Still More Table Tennis Tips"! Sure, you can read them for free here, but in the books I put them in a logical progression, organized by category, so it's a lot more helpful.

My Thursday and Sunday Beginning Classes are both still in synch. The focus was serving rules, fast serves, and forehand & backhand live practice. Spencer & Ronald Chen, and Todd Klinger assist on Thursdays (14 players), Lidney Castro on Sundays (ten players).

On Sunday we had Trials for the upcoming Talent Development Program, the advanced junior program at MDTTC. The program currently has about 25 players. Seven players tried out, with a series of table tennis tests, skill tests, and physical tests. Along with other coaches, I had a clipboard and a chart (which I'd created for this), where we marked off scores for each category. I also did the receive test for all of them, where I threw a number of basic serves at them so we could test their receive skills. Selections will be announced soon.

This next weekend I have substitutes for my coaching as I'll be going up to the Lily Yip TTC in New Jersey to coach Stanley Hsu (11, 2289, #1 in US in Under 12 - but he has an injured finger and might have to drop out), Mu Du (11, 2012, #4 in US in Under 12), and Ryan Lin (just turned 10, 1825, #13 in US in Under 12, #4 in Under 11) at the Hopes Regional Tournament. (There might be one or two others from my club going - not sure yet.)

German Open
Here's the home page for the event held Jan 28-Feb. 2, in Magdeburg, GER, with results, news, pictures, and video. Here are two articles featuring USA's Kanak Jha.

All-Japan National Championships: A Complete Review
Here's the ITTF article. "In the final he [Yukiya Uda] prevailed over the more famous Tomokazu Harimoto." "The Empress Cup went to Hayata Hina who beat the more experienced Ishikawa Kasumi in the final stage with a dominating 4-1. The Champion beat Ito Mima in the semifinals (maybe the real final), while Ishikawa overtook Hashimoto Honoka."


New from Samson Dubina

How to Get More BACKHAND POWER – with Craig Bryant
Here's the video (6:47) from Tom Lodziak.

Want to Do a Table Tennis Tour in London?
Here's the info page from WorldStrides. "In partnership with professional Table Tennis player, Khaleel Asgarali, WorldStrides Sports will send a group of enthusiastic table tennis players on an international tour to London."

New Videos from MaLong FanMade Channel (MLFM)

Table Tennis Tidbits #49: Remembering Jim Scott
Here's the article by Robert Ho.

For the Love of Table Tennis: A brand new table tennis center comes to Atlanta
Here's the article by Coach Jon. (I've added them to my ongoing list of full-time professional table tennis centers in the U.S., which now number 103.)

Table Tennis Logic – The 49ers / Chiefs Superbowl
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

History of USATT - Volume 23 - Chapter 27
Here is Chapter 27 of Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, "Readers Speak Up." (Page includes links to previous chapters.) Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at Volume 23 is 491 pages with 1841 graphics, and covers all the wild things that happened in 1997-1999 - and I'm mentioned a lot! Why not buy a copy - or the entire set at a discount? Tim sells them directly, so when you order them, you get it autographed - order your copy now!

Kobe Bryant in Commercial
Here's the video (35 sec)! It's in French, but I think they are advertising Actuping TV. And here's A story about Kobe Bryant playing — and quickly mastering — pingpong illustrates his insane competitiveness (from Business Insider).

Comeback Serve and Target Practice
Here's the video (6 sec)!

Timo Boll vs. Adam Bobrow
Here's the video (5:20)! One is the former world #1; the other is the voice of the ITTF and table tennis entertainer extraordinaire!

Sidewalk Pong Prophets
Here's the video (3:31)!

Table Tennis Movie Clip
Here's the video (5:22). It's in Chinese with English subtitles (usually), has some interesting serves, they are (mostly) using sponge rackets but with hardbat sounds, and it sort of just ends - it's apparently from a movie, but I have no idea what movie. But it's hilarious!

Pingpongman and Pingpongkid
Here's the video (1:42) of Scott and Austin Preiss doing an exhibition.

Peach Pong
Here's the video (13 sec)! (Or are those apples?)

Here's the video (7:44) from Pongfinity!

Non-Table Tennis - Science Fiction Sales News
I sold two science fiction stories this past week, "Space Force: First Victory" and "Space Force: The Poem," both to the anthology Alternative Space Forces. The first tells the story of our first battle and victory over invading aliens - with a twist. The second is a humorous poem about the exploits of Space Force.

As noted in previous blog, my story "Releasing Hitler" came out in Galaxy's Edge on January 1. Here's the first line: "In the year 1,001,945 AD, long after superweapons have caused the human species to go extinct, the next-to-last prisoner in Hell goes before the parole board."

Here's a review from SFRevu: "It is 1,001,945 AD and all but two people have been released from Hell. The penultimate person released is Adolph Hitler. He leaves expressing regret for his sins. Who the last person released is and what happens next, makes this a great little story." (Don't worry, Hitler gets his comeuppance - but how? Read the story and find out! It's pretty short.)

Send us your own coaching news!

January 27, 2020

Tip of the Week
Looping Slightly Long Balls.

I'm Going to Santa Monica and Tokyo!!!
I will be doing online coverage for USATT of both the US Olympic Trials in Santa Monica, CA (Feb. 27-Mar 1) and the Olympics in Tokyo (July 25-Aug. 7). I've done the coverage at (pause while I do a quick count...) approximately 20 US Opens, 20 US Nationals, 12 US Team Trials, two World Championships, and dozens and dozens of 4-star events.

The entry deadline for the US Olympic Trials is Feb. 15, but here is the list of entries so far - they'll continue to grow until the deadline. Here's the entry form, which includes info on who makes the Olympic Team. The #1 world-ranked USA players automatically qualify, so Kanak Jha n the men's side [world #27] and either Lily Zhang [#26] or Wu Yue [#33] on the women's side will automatically qualify and so won't be at the Trials. Rankings might change after the German Open. Once we reach the deadline, perhaps we'll have a WWW USATT news item - "Who Will Win?"

The info on the entry form about making the Olympic Team might change, since there is a Wang Chen grievance against USATT about the selection process - she's posted about this numerous times on Facebook. I'll post a link to any news on that when/if it comes up. 

I agreed to do the coverage at both events as an unpaid volunteer. However, I'm taking advantage of the opportunities to do some sightseeing. I plan to arrive in Santa Monica several days early and stay a few days late (at my own expense) so I can tour nearby Los Angeles and Hollywood - Hollywood Boulevard and Walk of Fame, Hollywood Sign, Griffith Observatory, LA Zoo, Santa Monica Pier, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, Battleship Iowa Museum, La Brea Tar Pits - and of course Universal Studios and Disneyland!

I'll be staying at least four days afterwards in Tokyo as well (also at my own expense), though I haven't put together my sightseeing list yet. (I've been to both LA and Tokyo - the latter after the 2001 Worlds in Osaka - but have never really done any sightseeing at either.)

Of course, the real reason I'm going to LA and Tokyo is to add to my souvenir magnet collection! Many people shell out lots of money on souvenirs when they sightsee; not me. I always buy a souvenir magnet (usually $3-5), and I'm done! I have them divided into two parts, with 55 US magnets on my refrigerator, and 93 International magnets (grouped by country) on a magnetic board on my wall. Soon this will be mine!!!

UPDATE - 2020 Olympic Selection Procedure Update Announced by USA Table Tennis
Here's the USATT news item, which went up on Tuesday. Basically, the new rules are simple - the highest world-ranked man and woman from the ITTF February rankings make the Olympic Team, while the top two men and women at the Olympic Trials get the other spots (3 men, 3 women). I'm told the February rankings will go up on Feb. 4, which is after the German Open (which ends Feb. 2), but I don't know if they will include those results. Lily Zhang and Wu Yue are both entered in it. Here's the link to the ITTF rankings.

BREAKING NEWS - Lily Zhang and Wu Yue both lost in the third round of the preliminaries at the German Open, so presumably their respective world rankings won't change, meaning Lily (along with Kanak Jha on the men's side) will get the automatic spot on the Olympic Team, based on world ranking. The rest will play in the US Olympic Trials, Feb. 27-March 1, for the final two men's and women's spots. (I'll be there!)

Weekend Coaching
We had Week #2 for both the Thursday (14 players) and Sunday (9 players) Beginning Junior Classes. (Spencer and Ronald Chen, and Todd Klinger, assist me on Thursdays; Lidney Castro on Sundays.) The focus was forehand review (which was a focus on Week 1) and the backhand. And then each class finished with the usual games.

For the Thursday class, we only had ten minutes, so we played the "Worm Juice" game - I put a bottle of Gatorade on the table and explained that I had gathered up all these fat worms from my lawn that morning, taken them inside, and squeezed their guts out, and then strained the liquid into an empty Gatorade bottle - "worm juice." They lined up, two shots each as I fed multiball, and if they hit it, I had to drink it. (As I constantly reminded them, "Friends don't make friends drink worm juice." Whenever someone hit it, they were no longer my friend.)

For the Sunday class, we had more time. First, I stacked ten cups into a pyramid (four cups for the base, etc.), and they each had ten shots to see how many they could knock down. Then we broke into two groups. One group played up-down tables (winner moves up a table, loser moves down), while the rest (the younger ones) took turns stacking the cups in to giant walls or pyramids (I keep a LOT of plastic cups for this), and then I fed multiball as they knocked it down. This latter is the perennial favorite for the kids under 12 or so.

In the more advanced Talent Development Program, we ran a practice tournament, so I didn't do as much coaching. But I did have a little fun - before their match, I tried coaching two girls (both about nine) to glare at each other, and tried to convince them that they were enemies. Of course, all I got was a gigglefest. Table tennis is so much fun when it's, um, fun.

I wonder if the kids realize how much different the coaches look at their play than they do? In the groups I watched, three players stood out - not because they won, but because they played with high-level technique and shots. I think my mouth dropped to the floor a few times while watching a pair of four-footers play each other, racing about and looping and counterlooping like Ma Long at half power!

Technical Problems
(Mostly non-table tennis, so skip if not interested in my Trials and Tribulations)
This last week has been a MAJOR headache. After many months of seeming bliss, everything mechanical or electrical fell apart. Here's a summary.

  • The hinge on my laptop computer broke on Thursday - the part that connects the screen to the base. I do most of my writing on the laptop, either in my lounge chair or at local restaurants. Not having it puts a major cramp on my routine. It's supposed to be repaired by Tuesday.
  • I received an email from my server (Godaddy) that due to suspicious activity, I should change my email password. I did so. But then a strange thing happened - my desktop computer wouldn't send email (I use Outlook), could only receive it. This went on for a couple of days. I finally switched back to my old password - and the result was my computer no longer would send or receive emails! And neither would my smart phone! It was weird and frustrating because I had the password correct on both devices, and yet it wouldn't work. I spent hours trying to fix the problem. I finally called technical support, and after some time with them, they were also unable to fix the problem. I finally called John Olsen, a 2000+ player and student of mine from Virginia and a true computer expert. He came over - and still couldn't get it to work, though he figured out that the problem was on Godaddy's end. He called the same technical support I'd called, and again they went over the problem, testing everything, and nothing seemed to work. After about 90 minutes, however, they basically deleted and recreated my email account, and finally got it to work. We're still not quite sure what happened - but if John hadn't come over and basically twisted Godaddy's arm over this, I don't know how it could have been fixed.

    John Olsen, by the way, has won a lot of medals - he won three golds at the 2019 Virginia Senior Games (60-64 Men's Singles and Mixed Doubles with Ergita MacLaughlin, Over 50 Men's Doubles with Kevin Walton, a total of 20 over the years), and at the 2019 National Senior Games he got silver in 60-64 Mixed Doubles (with Ergita MacLaughlin) and bronze in Over 50 Men's Doubles (with Kevin Walton). He also won Over 60 hardbat at the 2018 US Open, the last time they held the event.

  • I had a recent minor car accident, so my car's in the shop. (It was raining, the road was slippery, and as I went around a curve, my car spun off the road and into a light pole.) Insurance covers most of it, but I'll be paying at least $1000. I'm using a rental, the first time I've driven anything but my own car in decades. Car is supposed to be ready on Tuesday.

Table Tennis Community Fundraiser to Support Sally Boggan
The GoFundMe Fundraiser has raised $5784 so far, with 53 donors. (Sally is the wife of USATT legend Tim Boggan.) Tim hopes that, with enough donations, "it might be possible, with round-the-clock care, to get Sally home--give her new life." The fundraiser has definitely raised Tim's spirits!

German Open
Here's the home page for the event to be held Jan 28-Feb. 2, in Magdeburg, GER, with lots of news articles already. (Jan. 28-29 are preliminaries.)

USATT Presents 2019 Annual Coach of the Year Awards
Here's the USATT article. Here are the winners!

  • National Coach of the Year: Gao Jun and Stefan Feth (jointly awarded)
  • Developmental Coach of the Year: Wang Qingliang
  • Volunteer Coach of the Year: Dr. John Chen
  • Paralympic Coach of the Year: Mitch Seidenfeld
  • Doc Counsilman Coach of the Year: Not Awarded

Sean O'Neill Appointed Permanently to USATT High Performance Director Position
Here's the USATT article.

Thank You, Team
Here's the article by USATT High Performance Director Sean O'Neill.

Looeelooee Table Tennis Lessons Q and A - Why Good Rubbers Suck
Here's the video (15:35) by Louis Levene. There's a note underneath the video, from Louis, which I think clarifies this: "It's the combination of having both a very hard and very springy rubber that you should try to avoid until you are an advanced player; it makes any touch shot (blocking, pushing, spinning, touching, serving) much more difficult."

I agree that these hard sponges are not good except for advanced players, who drive hard into most rallying shots and still control these and other shots. On the other hand, if you are getting regular coaching (so as to avoid bad habits), and train regularly (as opposed to just playing games), I think it's best to go to advanced sponges at a relatively early level (1200-1500), but go with the softer or regular versions, not the hard ones - and don't get a super-fast racket. This makes it easier for a player to develop those advanced shots. A sponge like Tenergy FX (the softer version of Tenergy) is great for players at this level. (Alas, I only really know Butterfly equipment - I'm sponsored by them - but other brands have their equivalent.)

New from Samson Dubina

How to Read the Amount of Spin – with Mark Mitchell
Here's the video (7:03) from Tom Lodziak.

Scheduling Peak Performances
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

Liam Pitchford in Training Mode Ripping Backhands... Unreal
Here's the video (16 sec) of the English #1 and world #22 (#12 in August). Why can't you do this?

2020 USATT Hopes Program - Road to LA
Here's the USATT article. "The USATT Hopes Program- Road to LA is a series of activities at regional, national and international level featuring education, training camps, competition and, talent identification, designed to spark motivation and interest for aspiring young table tennis athletes born on or after January 1, 2008 who have a love for table tennis and who wish to become high-level table tennis players."

2020 Para Program Initiatives
Here's the USATT article.

U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee Athlete's Advisory Council Sign Historic Agreement To Aide Athletes
Here's the USOPC article. The agreement was signed by the USOPC Athletes' Advisory Council Chair Han Xiao, who is quoted several times in the article. Han was a long-time member of the US National Team, 4-time Men's Doubles Champion, and 2011 Men's Singles Finalist at the US Nationals. (I was one of his coaches during his junior years!)

$100,000 World Championships of Ping-Pong
Here's the home page for the annual event held this past weekend in London - with sandpaper rackets. Here's the article Baggaley is Record-Breaking Betvictor World Champion. "Andrew Baggaley has won the BetVictor World Championship of Ping Pong for a record-breaking fourth time after beating Alexander Flemming 3-2 in an incredible final which will live long in the memory of the 1,500 capacity crowd in attendance at Alexandra Palace, London."

ITTF Articles

WAB Club Feature: Broward Table Tennis Club
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

Cape Fear TTC: Slow and Steady Development Is the Way to Go!
Here's the article by Michael Reff, featuring the Cape Fear TTC in Fayetteville, NC.

Fan Zhendong Interview
Here's the ITTF video (5:50) of the world #1 from China, in Chinese with English subtitles.

Interview with Wong Chun Ting on 2020 World Team Qualification
Here's the video interview (60 sec) of the Hong Kong world #19 (formerly #6).

New Videos from MaLong FanMade Channel (MLFM)

Pigeons Playing Ping Pong
Pigeons Playing Ping Pong is the name of an actual band from Baltimore, Maryland! Here's video of one of their concerts - sorry, no actual table tennis, though the image at the start is of a pigeon with a ping-pong paddle smacking an egg, and 38 seconds in someone in the audience on the right seems to be waving a purple mini-ping-pong paddle!

Salah vs Lovren: Lunar New Year Table Tennis Challenge
Here's the video (11:06)! Mohamed Salah and Dejan Lovren both play on the Liverpool Football team (that's soccer for Americans); Salah is a member of the Egypt National Team, Lovren a member of the Croatian National Team.

The Funniest Moments of Table Tennis 2019
Here's the video (24 min)! "A selection of the funniest moments of Spanish table tennis during the year 2019."

Highlights and Funniest Table Tennis Moments
Here's the video (10:10)!

The Golden Challenge
Here's the video (10:10) from Pongfinity!

Send us your own coaching news!

January 20, 2020

Tip of the Week
Whenever You Miss, Shadow Stroke.

Happy Martin Luther King Day!
Alas, I couldn't find a single picture of him playing table tennis...Photoshop, anyone, for next week?

USATT Turnover - and a Fresh Start?
I don't think USA Table Tennis has ever had so much turnover in such a short period of time - see listing below. They are almost unrecognizable from just months ago. This could be both a good and a bad thing. But it's definitely a huge opportunity!!!

It could be a good thing as it gives USATT a fresh start. And that could be a GREAT thing! (However, at least on the elite level, USATT has made great strides in recent years. The level and depth of USATT players has gone up dramatically, though this is mostly due to the rise of full-time training centers with professional coaches all over the country, a relatively new thing. The more USATT encourages this, the better things will get here.)

But fresh starts don't always work out. When the USOC essentially took over USATT in 2008 and completely changed the board of directors, I was excited for the chance of a fresh start. They held a Strategic Meeting in 2009 with 26 people to plan things out, which I attended. I spent an inordinate amount of time creating plans and practicing presentations. Alas, IMHO, much of the meeting was hijacked by a few people with bad ideas, and a huge opportunity was wasted. (Exactly zero of my plans were adopted.) Here is my Sept. 26, 2011 blog about that. Bottom line - in most organizational meetings, experience and forward thinking can't beat people who look good in a suit. :)

A fresh start could be a bad thing because it means a loss of organizational memory and continuity. (A primary reason the bad ideas mentioned above were adopted.) I've been to USATT meetings where people would bring up ideas as if they were obvious and fresh things, with no clue that they had been tried repeatedly in the past. That doesn't mean you can't try them again, but if you don't know why past attempts failed, guess what? You will likely do the same mistakes that led to failure before. It's important to have organizational memory so that you can learn from those mistakes. It's mind-boggling how often USATT has repeated the same mistakes during the 44 years I've been a member.

One problem USATT always faces during these transitions is that they are trying to serve two masters - Elite Table Tennis (in particular the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee) and the Membership. I've proposed several times that USATT solve this problem by recommending they "Instigate a Professional Players Association with its own ED, with the goal of getting sponsorships and TV for a professional circuit." I did formal proposals on this back in 2003 and 2004, and brought it up again in 2015. Alas, it would mean USATT giving up power, plus there's the problem that the USOPC partially funds USATT - if we created a professional players association, who would get that money?

Perhaps there should be more changeover. There's a USATT volunteer who recently posted on Facebook, about presidential contender Pete Buttigieg, "If Petey gets in, will we have a First Fairy, or a First Fagot?" (I called him out on it, and he deleted it, but I kept a screenshot.) I don't know if that's a USATT issue or not - but since we only have one member of the USATT Ethics and Disciplinary Committee left (see below), it's sort of moot. (I'm sure if we thoroughly investigated all USATT volunteers and staff, we'd find worse.)

Here's a listing of recent USATT personnel changes.

  • USATT Board of Directors. As I've blogged about, USOPC (formerly USOC) forced all nine members of the USATT board to resign, and they did so a couple of weeks ago. One of the nine, Tara Profitt, was voted back in as player rep, but the others are not allowed to return. I'm told USATT will be back to nine board members by the end of March - but eight of them will be new. (The current board listing has only two, the recently elected player reps - Tara and Niraj Oak.)
  • USATT Committees. There's been a huge turnover there. (See far left column.) All five members of the Audit Committee have resigned. All four members of the Compensation Committee have resigned. Six of the seven members of the Ethics and Grievance Committee have resigned. Three of the eight members of the High Performance Committee have resigned. One member each of the Nominating & Governing, the Tournaments, and the Umpires and Referees Committees have resigned.
  • CEO. Virginia Sung became the new CEO in May, 2019. This now seems a long time ago!
  • High Performance Director. Sean O'Neill became the Interim High Performance Director in September, 2019.
  • USATT Headquarters Staff. Accountant Chris Mauro and SafeSport Specialist Becky Bill both left sometime late in 2019. I believe an outside firm is now doing USATT accounting (there's no accountant in the USATT staff listing), while Josh Dyke is the SafeSport Specialist.
  • USATT Media Team. Three of the four are resigning. Director Matt Hetherington is resigning as of March 1, while Tony Murnahan and Ryan Green are leaving as of Feb. 1, when their contracts end.
  • USATT Lawyer. The Paul Hastings law firm is taking over the legal duties for USATT from long-time lawyer Dennis Taylor. Here's the USATT article, USATT Taps on International Law Firm Paul Hastings LLP for Support. They are a huge law firm, a Fortune 500 company - according to Wikipedia, "It is one of the largest law firms in the United States, with over $1.22 billion of revenue in 2018." But will they attend all board meetings, as Dennis did? They won't have the organizational memory that Dennis had, who's been closely involved with USATT for about twenty years, not only as lawyer, but as a board member, secretary, and as chair of the High Performance Committee. (Plus a number of other positions I can't remember at the moment.)
  • US Open and Nationals Staff. Omnipong Director Craig Krum took over running them this past December with the Nationals, bringing in a mostly new staff. North American Table Tennis had been running them both for nearly 20 years.

Weekend Coaching
This past Thursday we started a new ten-week Beginning Class, with 14 kids. The focus in the first session was grip, ball-bouncing, stance, and the forehand. This Thursday we'll do more on the forehand, and then start on the backhand.

In the more advanced Talent Development Program on Sunday, I was mostly with the younger players. We started off with a series of shadow-practice. A big feature of the session was backhand games, where players played only on the backhand side on both sides - but they could use forehand or backhand. Toward the end I switched over to the older players. One interesting thing - they played games at the end, and I realized one of our more advanced players served illegally almost every time - her serving hand and ball went below the table over and over. I pointed it out to her - she didn't realize she was doing this. We'll get that fixed. (I remember a kid I coached once got faulted for that in the semifinals of the Under 14 National Championships.)

MDTTC Opens in Gaithersburg, Maryland
The entry form for the year's four MDTTC Opens is now online. I used to run these tournaments, but I've turned the reins over to Klaus Wood. The first one is Feb. 8-9. See you there! (They should show up in the Omnipong tournament listing soon.)

Table Tennis Community Fundraiser to Support Sally Boggan
Here's the USATT article by Larry Hodges and Sheri Soderberg Cioroslan. Here's the GoFundMe page for Sally, wife of Tim Boggan - hope you can help out! We've raised $3764 as of this writing.


New from Samson Dubina

Super Easy Backhand Flick Technique
Here's the video (7:35) from Tom Lodziak.

Building a Better Blocker
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

New from Steve Hopkins

Wang Returns to the Limelight for 2020 US Olympic Trials
Here's the article by Matt Hetherington.

Experior Expanding Excellence in Chicago’s Table Tennis Scene
Here's the article by Michael Reff.

ARKTTA's December Open and Review of 2019
Here's the article by Mike Lauro, featuring Arkansas table tennis.

Turn of the Decade: ITTF's Feature on Rising Stars
ITTF has started a new semi-daily feature on rising stars. USA's Kanak Jha was featured on Jan. 16.

China Announces World Team Championships Selection, Debuts for Liang Jingkun and Sun Yingsha
Here's the ITTF article.

2020 ITTF World Team Qualification Tournament
Here's the info page for the event to be held Jan. 22-26 in Gondomar, Portugal. The event serves as a qualification event for the Games of the XXXII Olympiad Tokyo 2020. Here's the ITTF article Five teams, five reasons: follow the Tokyo 2020 World Team Qualification.

Liang Jingkun Interview
Here's the ITTF video (3:09) with the men's world #9 of China.

Ask A Pro Anything | Best Of 2019
Here's the ITTF video (5:09).

New Videos from MaLong FanMade Channel (MLFM)

New from PingSkills

Table Tennis Rules and Knowledge Posters
There are three versions, sold at different places - take your pick!

One Minute, One Sport | Table Tennis
Here's the video (1:17) that tries to give a complete review of the sport in record time!

Comeback Receive and Fifty-Foot Serve
Here's the video (52 sec) as Scott Preiss demonstrates both in this exhibition!

It's a Dog Eat Ball World
Here's the repeating gif!

Powerpuff Girls | Ping Pong Z
Here's the video (2:27)!

Tom & Jack in Table Tennis Game
Here's the video (4:01)!

Penhold Ping Pong
Here's the video (10:03) from Pongfinity!

Playing Alone by Circling Table
It takes super-human speed to play alone by racing around the table, returning your own shots. Here are videos and gifs of these super-beings in action!

Send us your own coaching news!

January 13, 2020

Tip of the Week
Don't Learn to Play Every Style - Learn to Adjust.

Tim and Sally Boggan Need Your Help!
Here's the GoFundMe page. Sally, wife of USATT Historian Tim Boggan (former president, editor, father of two U.S. Men's Singles Champions (Eric and Scott), Hall of Famer, and pretty much everything else table tennis-wise), had a stroke last year. She is paralyzed on one side and unable to speak. Many people have known and loved Sally for decades. Let's show how much we appreciate Tim's contributions to our lives through his many table tennis ventures and joyfully support Tim and Sally during her recovery process. The medical bills are huge, and not all covered by insurance. Sheri Cioroslan (formerly Sheri Pittman, former USATT president) created the GoFundMe page for them (which includes their picture), with the goal of raising $20,000. It only opened a week ago but has already raised $2414. Can you pitch in? Here's a note from Tim:

"Four and a half months ago my wife Sally suffered a stroke--blood clot on the brain that can't be removed because the arteries are all tangled. She's paralyzed on her left side, can't speak, has a tube in her stomach that brings enough nourishment to keep her alive, gets oxygen through her nostrils. She remains in a nursing home, getting some therapy, and I'm with her 5 days every day. She's often sad, often tired, but she can still think well, can write (quite legibly if she prints), and gives a thumbs up or down to simple questions. So Sally (going on 87) and I (going on 90) are functioning but have considerable problems, and much appreciate whatever help anyone can give."

History of USATT - Volume 23 - Chapter 25
Here is Chapter 25 of Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, "1998 U.S. Closed Part 1." (Page includes links to previous chapters.) Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at Volume 23 is 491 pages with 1841 graphics, and covers all the wild things that happened in 1997-1999 - and I'm mentioned a lot! Why not buy a copy - or the entire set at a discount? Tim sells them directly, so when you order them, you get it autographed - order your copy now!

Weekend Coaching
It's always strange how the numbers fluctuate in the two Beginning Junior Classes I teach. Historically, the Sunday class (4-5:30PM) has more players, typically twelve or more. But the new ten-week session, which started this past Sunday, only has six. Meanwhile, the new ten-week Thursday session (6:30-7:30PM), which starts this Thursday, already has 13 players signed up. The previous Thursday session finished this past Thursday (nine players), with the focus on Player's Choice (they choose what they need or want to work on), and smashing lobs. The focus of the first meeting of the new Sunday session was grip, ball control (ball bouncing), stance, and forehand. We'll do roughly the same for the new Thursday session this week.

I also coached in the more advanced Junior League (Saturdays, 5-7 PM, half league, half coaching) and Talent Development Program (Sundays, 5:30-7:15 PM). Here's an interesting exchange. Coach Wang told me on Saturday that I'd be working that session with the strongest players, "which is much easier than working with beginners." I disagreed, saying working with beginners is easy - "Far easier to find things to work with them on, since they're all working on fundamentals." Working with the top players is more difficult because at that point, they pretty much have the fundamentals down, and there's more subtle and subjective work - and you have to be careful not to get stuck in one of those, "But Coach [Fill in Name] said I should do it this way!" But it's pretty rewarding working with the stronger players. I spent some time working with one who, when he looped from the forehand side, often didn't move back quickly, so I got him to focus on following through back into position. (See Follow Through Back Into Position After Forehand Looping.)

Another focus was players avoiding shots they have trouble with. As I explained to several of them, if you have trouble with a shot, then don't avoid it - use it every chance you can! This is practice, and if you can't practice the shots you have trouble with in practice, when can you practice them?

USATT Board of Directors
Here's USA Table Tennis CEO's USATT Statement to Membership on Reform Process. (It went up last Tuesday, the day after my blog, so I linked to it from that blog one day late.)

So all nine USATT board members resigned. This past week, two Athlete Representatives were elected, so we currently have a two-person board of directors. Here's the article Athlete Representatives Appointed to Interim Board of Directors. Here's the USATT Board of Director's Listing, with (as of now) just the two of them, Tara Profitt (who was one of the player reps from the nine from before) and newly elected Niraj Oak. I'm told that by the end of January, USOPC will appoint three more members, and then, using USATT bylaws, the board will go to the full nine, probably by the end of March - including a USATT election for two spots. (Other than the two player reps, the other seven members of the previous board are not eligible for the new board.)

Here's the interesting thing about this. I don't know if Tara and Niraj know this, but based on our bylaws, a quorum is "The presence of a majority of the directors of the Board of Directors at the time of any meeting shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business." We only have two board members right now. This means that if the two agree, they have both a quorum and a majority. They can't change the bylaws, which takes a majority of the "full board" - which is defined as having nine members, and so six votes are needed - but they can do just about anything else. They can vote to fire or hire people, change committees, decide where the Open or Nationals will be, approve a budget that puts 100% of our money into Paralympics, name me Coach of the Millennium and my forehand the greatest of all-time, or vote that pi equals 3. C'mon, Tara and Niraj, let's have some fun!

I left the USATT Board of Directors early in 2019 after a four-year term - but things seemed to have changed a lot after I left, which likely is part of the reason why the USOPC intervened. There were always political disagreements, but during my tenure, it wasn't too nasty. This past year? Here's a pair of quotes from the December 15, 2019 minutes.

Bruce Liu: since I joined the Board in January every board meeting has been acrimonious.
Carolyne Savini: I have been on this board since August 2015 and have experienced many healthy debates in board meetings in the last few years but not dysfunction like this until recently. 

Why the Chinese Dominate
I was recently asked why I think China dominates in table tennis. Here was my response (with a few edits).

The Chinese dominate because they have several advantages. Briefly:

  • They have more players training at an early age with top coaches and practice partners than the rest of the world combined. 
  • Those who finally make the Chinese national team are perhaps 2900-level players, who get to train on a daily basis with multiple other players at that same level - something no other country can match. (As Waldner once famously quipped, "When do I get to practice with someone my level?" The Chinese don't have that problem.)
  • There are more Chinese coaches than probably the rest of the world combined, working with more players than the rest of the world combined, and so the result is that the ones that rise to the top are among the best, or the best, coaches in the world. (Unless politics intervenes.) 
  • The top Chinese coaches get to study the best players in the world - those 2900-level players mentioned above - on a daily basis, along with watching tapes of their competitors, and from that, work out strategically what they need to do to beat the rest of the world. (Which, I will add, includes training their players tactically so they can use those strategic plans.) Coaches from other countries do not have the opportunity to work with on a daily basis this many players at that level. (Strategic in this context means overall plan; Tactical means what you do in a given match to apply that strategic plan. I wrote about this extensively in my Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers book, much of which was based on my experiences working with Chinese coaches and players.) 
  • They have the team aspect down pretty well, where they work together to beat their common foes. 

With all of the above, it's easy to see why China dominates. As long as politics doesn't intervene, it's difficult to match these advantages. I don't think the actual match coaching is a huge deciding factor for the Chinese - it is what happens strategically before the match (sometimes in the years before) that makes the main difference, and is why the best Chinese are, on a whole, technically better. 

On a related note, I'm fine with China dominating right now - as long as they continue their policy of allowing top players and coaches to go to other countries to begin careers as professional coaches, thereby helping other countries develop. The depth and level of play in the US is stronger now than at any time in the sponge era (going back to the 1950s), and that's due to the rise of full-time training centers with professional coaches - and Chinese coaches staff most of those facilities.

Utilizing Body Mechanics in Table Tennis Techniques
Here's the article by Meng Lingshuai

How to Play Against Awkward Long Pips in Table Tennis
Here's the video (12:17) from Louis Levene.

U.S. Ping Pong Legend Hopes for 2020 Olympics
Here's the CBS video (4:35) featuring the legendary five-time US Men's Singles Champion Dan Seemiller! Here's his GoFundMe page ($12,620 raised out of $15,000 needed as of this writing) and his book, Revelations of a Ping-Pong Champion. And here's the article, Technique Over Age Is Mantra for Dan Seemiller’s Inspirational Tokyo 2020 Run, by Michael Reff.

US Team for 2020 World Team Table Tennis Championships Announced
Here's the USATT Announcement. Here's the ITTF article, United States Announces Busan Team, Five Teenagers on Duty.

Princeton Pong - NJ's Premier Table Tennis Club
Here's the video (1:21). While I'm sure one or two clubs in New Jersey might contest the "Premier" part, it's a pretty nice video! And yeah, that's six-time US Men's Singles Champion David Zhuang shown in the video, head coach at the club.

Santa Monica College with Prominent Ponging Past Excited to Host Olympic Trials
Here's the USATT article by Michael Reff.

Special National Team Uniform Offer for USA WVC 2020 Competitors
Here's the USATT article.

ITTF Articles
Here are some interesting articles and videos from ITTF.

New from Steve Hopkins

New from Tom Lodziak

Finding Table Tennis Equipment in Tokyo
Here's the article from Coach Jon.

USA Players Overseas
Here are two videos.

New Videos from MALONG Fanmade Channel
They put new videos every week featuring the Chinese National Team.

Navin Kumar on ABC News!
Here's the video (1:54) from ABC 7. 

The Decade Meeting With My Table Tennis Family
Here's the video (4:16). It's in Vietnamese, with English subtitles.

Nick Sundberg Hopes Redskins Can 'Earn Back' Ping-Pong Table in the Future
Here's the article. And here's the article I linked to last week about the head coach taking the table away.

Table Tennis for Everyone, Everywhere
Here's the picture! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

It Made Things Easier for the Guards
Here's the cartoon!

Today Anchors Face Off in a Game of Ping-Pong
Here's the video (4:47).

Bizarre Follow to a Whiffed Smash
Here's the video (31 sec)! It's hard to see the ball because of the white background, but if you watch closely, he completely whiffs the smash, then does a 360 while making the return on the second try!

Ping Pong Stereotypes (Dude Perfect Parody)
Here's the video (4:57)!

This Man Just Invented His Own Sport
Here's the video (18 sec)!

Table Tennis for Everyone, Everywhere
Here's the mini-pong ski-lift video (2:01)!

Rallying with . . . Everything!!!
Here's the video (27 sec)!

Double Bladed Ping Pong
Here's the video (4:36) from Pongfinity! So . . . how does this compare with Darth Maul?

Non-Table Tennis - Sale to Galaxy's Edge
Last Wednesday night, I sold a story, "Prototype Solar System with Strings Attached," to Galaxy's Edge, one of the big science fiction and fantasy magazines. (I have a story in the current issue, "Releasing Hitler.") The editor is the famous Mike Resnick, who holds the record for the most Hugo nominations in history (37, with five wins), the big prize for science fiction writers. It was the 18th story he's bought from me. But now the sad and morbid aftermath - I'm told my story was the last he bought for the magazine. Shortly after midnight that night he died in his sleep at age 77, from lymphoma cancer, which he had kept mostly secret from others. Mike had helped me a lot in my career, both by buying my stories and from a five-day writing workshop I attended that he helped run, plus ongoing email discussions on various topics. He will be greatly missed.

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January 6, 2020

Tip of the Week
How to Develop a Nasty Forehand Flip.

Tim and Sally Boggan Need Your Help!
Sally, wife of USATT Historian Tim Boggan (and former president, editor, father of two U.S. Men's Singles Champions (Eric and Scott), Hall of Famer, and pretty much everything else table tennis-wise), had a stroke last year. She is paralyzed on one side and unable to speak. The medical bills are huge, and not all covered by insurance. Sheri Cioroslan (formerly Sheri Pittman, former USATT president) created a GoFundMe page for them, with the goal of raising $20,000. It only opened yesterday (Sunday), but has already raised $700. Can you pitch in? (Tim will be a young 90 this September.)

USOPC Letter and USATT Board Resignations
I wrote about this in my Dec. 2 (third segment) and Dec. 9 (fourth segment) blogs. Here's a rehashing.

First, here's the actual USOPC letter itself. Attached to it were over 100 pages of confidential material, and unfortunately, that's not public and I haven't seen it either. But the letter gives a gist of the USOPC's thinking. The letter itself demands that all nine USATT board members resign by Dec. 18, 2019, or USATT would be decertified. (Here's a screen shot of the listing, since it'll likely be changed soon.) Here's the Dec. 31 USATT news item, USATT CEO Makes Announcement on Current State of Affairs.

As of Dec. 18, two board members hadn't resigned - Carolyne Savini and Ed Hogshead. 

Technically, Rajul Sheth and Tara Profitt were still board members as of this morning (Jan. 6). They had turned in resignations that would take effect the moment all other board members had resigned. They did this since, if they didn't, then the holdouts at the end would essentially be the USATT board and could vote and pass anything - all you need to pass something is a quorum -  a majority - of the current board, and if they had both resigned, then Carolyne and Ed could, in theory, pass anything they agreed on - including putting whatever they wanted in the minutes, and board members were still in disagreement over what should be in them. (More on that in the next segment.)

What did this mean? We were told that USOPC would start the Section 8 proceedings against USATT this morning, Jan. 6, and that once it started, it wouldn't not stop, even if the rest of the board resigned. (We were lucky in this - USOPC essentially shut down during the holidays, or they would have started the proceedings sooner.)

Carolyne refused to resign until all minutes from recent board meetings had been approved and put online. This was accomplished just yesterday, Sunday, Jan. 5. (See January 5 minutes.) Last night (Sunday) Carolyne resigned. Ed, however, did not resign last night. And so I wrote an entire blog based on that.

Ed had written, "I will resign as a member of the USATT Board of Directors when the missing board minutes are posted and when the current financial statements are posted." (Italics are mine.) CEO Virginia Sung agreed in writing to post the financial statements, saying they were still incomplete but promising they would be up by Jan. 31. Ed at first wouldn't agree to this, and as of this morning, he hadn't resigned.

However, the breaking news today, shortly after lunchtime (so a little after 10AM Colorado time, where USOPC and USATT headquarters are located) was that Ed had resigned. So I deleted the stuff I'd written.

What happens next? Virginia messaged me that they had informed USOPC that all nine had resigned, and that all was well. So at this point it is likely USOPC will not follow through with the Section 8. (I still think it is funny that it's called a Section 8, which has a different meaning in the military.)

What happens next, now that USATT has no board of directors? I covered that in my Dec. 2 blog. I'll blog more about this as things unfold and may add updates here this week.

=>BREAKING NEWS (12:36 AM Tuesday morning) - USATT CEO Virginia Sun released the following news item: 
USATT Statement to Membership on Reform Process

USATT Minutes
The USATT Minutes, from October to the present, went online yesterday (Sunday). There are ten different items. There's a LOT of material, much of it controversial - there's a reason why getting them approved was delayed as board members and others often disagreed on what should be in the minutes. The December 15 minutes were taken essentially verbatim and are 63 pages long, with the USOPC letter discussed on pages 41-51. (I was mentioned once, in regard to the USATT Strategic Initiatives, where it says, "It was brought to the board for approval and Larry Hodges challenged us to get something done.") There are four items October 15 items alone on the Rajul Sheth expulsion move.

US Open
It was held in Fort Worth, Texas, Dec. 17-21. It's sort of ancient news now, so I won't go into it too much. I was there as a coach. Here are some notes and links.

  • Complete Results
  • Defense Turns Offense as Miuchi Takes 2019 Seamaster US Open Men's Singles Crown by Matt Hetherington.
  • Lily Zhang Brings it Home at the 2019 Seamaster US Open by Matt Hetherington. My short analysis - Lily was excellent in attacking the middle.
  • I coached nearly all of Nicole Deng's matches at the Open, including her matches in MiniCadet Girls' Singles, which she won. Here's a picture - L-R Wang Cheng (who gives her private coaching), Nicole, and me.
  • I think I set a personal record for most comeback wins after a timeout while coaching. Nicole Deng was down 2-6 in the fifth in one match, I called a timeout, and she won nine in a row! (I told her to do more deep serves, including fast down the line; to stop attacking the serve; and to open more with her backhand loop.) In another, she was down 1-5 in the fifth, I called a timeout, and she won 11-8. Todd Klinger was down 2-6 in the fifth when I called a timeout, and he won 11-8. There were several others but I didn't record them.
  • Coaching is not only telling players things, but knowing what not to tell them. In one match, 1775-rated Ryan Lin (age 10) upset a 2046-rated player. Throughout the match I was amazed at how well Ryan returned serves - and so the single best thing I did in that match was not to mention his return of serve between games. If I had, he would have started thinking about it, and instead of instinctively doing what he'd been trained to do (and was doing so well), he'd have started making mistakes. I just talked about what serves he should use and where he should place the ball, and everything worked.
  • Coaching can get complicated. I had three primary students - Nicole Deng, Todd Klinger, and Ryan Lin. Each had entered the maximum number of events. So each night I put together a schedule for the following day. Since we didn't know in advance how far each player would advance in each event, I had to assume they advanced. As the day went by and they lost matches (no!), I'd cross those matches off my schedule. The toughest part was choosing which match to coach when they had conflicts. Sometimes, when I knew who my player was playing, I'd go to youtube (on my laptop at night, on my phone at the playing hall) and see if I could find videos of the player to study.
  • Here's something you don't see too often. Many of the tables at the Open were in barriered groups of three. One time I was walking by one of these groups and did a double-take. Something looked weird, like I was looking into a mirror or something. And then I realized why - all six players playing were lefties!!! About ten percent of people are left-handed, so the chances of all six would be one in 10^6, or one in a million!!!
  • I saw and heard players talking about a guy named Vasyl Kushnir. His first US Tournament was the South Shore Open in November, 2019. He went 0-6, losing to players rated 866, 706, 569, 503, 492, and 452. In those six matches, he was 2-18 in games. He lost to the 436 player at 1,3,4! Based on those results, he deservedly got a rating of 415. And then, at the Open, one month later . . . he beat players rated 2440, 2289, 2283, 2246, 2241, 2208, 2193, 2160, 2155, 2145, 2141, 2132, 2113, 2017! His losses were to players rated 2552, 2565, 2407, 2356, and 2291. A couple of days into the tournament I brought this to the tournament director's attention, and that the player was entered in Under 1800 and Under 1900! After conferring with USATT CEO Virginia, he was taken out of those two events. This may be the most extreme example of dumping I've ever seen. His new rating after the Open? 2616!!! Now he's probably over-rated, but he should be somewhere in the 2400 range. 
  • The USATT Assembly took place on Thursday at the Open. There were about 50 people. The main topic was the USOPC's letter, demanding that all nine USATT board members resign. I write about that elsewhere in this blog.
  • We had a new group running the tournament, and with that, there were problems that, hopefully, will be fixed next time. Matches were often late, with the tournament falling 1-2 hours behind each day. There were technical problems that kept them from putting results online in a timely fashion the first few days. There were also a number of rating events where, instead of the standard of groups of four, they had mostly groups of three. The program listed all the participants, but didn't list their player number, rating, or state. (People use the program to identify players, which means they need the player number listed - all players are required to either wear their player number or have their names on the back of their shirt.)
  •  After coaching essentially all day and into the night for four straight days, I discovered I was free on the last day, Saturday. So I took an uber to Dallas (about 30 miles away), and visited the Sixth Floor JFK Museum, the Dallas Holocaust Museum, and the Dallas Aquarium.

Weekend Coaching
Now that holiday break is over, it's back to coaching! This past weekend I coached in the Talent Development Program on Saturday (5-7PM) and Sunday (5:30-7:15PM). In the Sunday session I was in charge of eleven players with three coaches - and the kids were animated after their break.

I also coached the Sunday Beginning Class (4:00-5:30 PM), which was the tenth and final week of the session, with a new ten-week session starting next Sunday. Focus was Player's Choice (player chose what they needed to work on, with consultation with the coach), and smashing lobs.

2020 US Nationals in Salt Lake City
They will be held in June 29 - July 4, in Salt Lake City, Utah. (They announced this at the USATT Assembly at the US Open.) One thing of concern - Salt Lake City has a 4200-foot elevation. This means the air will be considerably thinner than at sea level. I have considerable experience with this, as from 1985-1990 I was at various times a player/manager/director/coach for the table tennis program at the Olympic Table Tennis Center in Colorado Springs, with an elevation of 5200 feet. Using this online Air Density Calculator, I find that Colorado Springs has an air pressure of .83 atmospheres, and Salt Lake City .86, while sea level is 1.00. (The numbers don't go up linearly.) My experience in Colorado Springs is that the ball travels typically about six inches further on the table, so it'll be close to that in Salt Lake City. Topspins don't drop as fast and backspins don't float as much. Balls shoot at you faster than expected. Balls are spinnier than expected as there's less air friction to slow the spin. Also, of course, if you are out of shape you get less air with each breath. It takes time to adjust to these differences.

USATT, ITTF, and Butterfly News Items
There have been a LOT while I've been away. Rather than link to them all, why not browse over them? (I'll link to a few of them directly. Disclaimer - I'm sponsored by Butterfly.)

U.S. Ping Pong Legend Hopes for 2020 Olympics...
Here's the CBS video (4:35) featuring the legendary five-time US Men's Singles Champion Dan Seemiller! Here's his GoFundMe page ($12,135 raised out of $15,000 needed as of this writing) and his book, Revelations of a Ping-Pong Champion. And here's the article, Technique Over Age Is Mantra for Dan Seemiller’s Inspirational Tokyo 2020 Run, by Michael Reff

New from Samson Dubina

New from Tom Lodziak

New from PingSkills

New from Coach Jon

How to Identify Fake Butterfly Products
Here's the article from EmRatThich/Ping Sunday.

USATT Year in Review

2020 US Olympic Table Tennis Trials
Here's the info page for the event to be held at Santa Monica College, CA, Feb. 27 - Mar. 1, 2020.

USATT Adopts New Slogan - "Keep Life in Play, Keep Play in Life"
Here's the USATT article by Matt Hetherington.

ITTF World Rankings
Here are the January 2020 world rankings. Here's January 2020 ITTF Rankings: Fan Starts 2020 On Top by Steve Hopkins.

2020 NCTTA Divisional Winter/Spring Schedule is Out!
Here's the info page from the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association.

MLFM Table Tennis
They have lots of new videos featuring the Chinese Team.

Ma Long Faulted for Hiding Serve, Unsuccessfully Challenges
Here's the video (2:27) from the 2019 ITTF Grand Finals. The serve in question is shown in slow motion at 0:43 (time is played backwards, so that means 43 seconds from end). Obviously the serve is illegal, as are most of the serves of most world-class players - see how the ball goes behind his head, which is of course illegal (ball must be visible to opponent throughout the serve).

First Ever Table Tennis Review Challenge
Here's the video (2:16). "The FIRST EVER challenge to an umpire's call using Table Tennis Review technology is made by Lin Gaoyuan at the 2019 ITTF Grand Finals." Leading 10-9 in the third (1-1 in games), Lin's serve was faulted for the toss being more than 30 degrees from vertical, and so he challenged it. However, video replay showed the toss was about 52 degrees, and so the call stood.

History of USATT - Volume 23
Here are links to all 23 chapters that have gone up so far (out of 31 total). Or you can buy it and previous volumes at Volume 23 is 491 pages with 1841 graphics, and covers all the wild things that happened in 1997-1999 - and I'm mentioned a lot! Why not buy a copy - or the entire set at a discount? Tim sells them directly, so when you order them, you get it autographed - order your copy now! (Alas, Volume 24, while mostly complete, is on hold while Tim tends to his wife Sally - see segment above.)

"Ping-Pong Diplomacy" and China-US Relations: Judy Hoarfrost Recalls History
Here's the article from China Plus (in English).

They Came to Play Table Tennis. They Were Deported at Gunpoint in the Dark
Here's the story from the New York Times. Here's another article, from the Croatia News.

Ron Rivera Removes Ping Pong Table from Redskins' Locker Room
Here's the article. Yep, that was the source of the Redskin's woes last year. "The source of turmoil and losing has been identified in the Washington Redskins’ locker room, and new head coach Ron Rivera has successfully rid of it less than a week after taking the job."

Best Ping Pong Shots 2019
Here's the video (10:12). "It has been a truly incredible year and these are our favorite clips of 2019!"

Table Tennis- If Were Not Filmed, Nobody Would Believe (around the net edition)
Here's the video (5:23)!

Behind the Back Shots Master
Here's the video (3 min)!

Cat Pong
Here's the new video (3:35)!

Two-Bat Juggling and Dancing Routine
Here's the video (15 sec)!

T-Rex Multiball
Here's the video (12 sec)!

Santa Claus vs MLFM Table Tennis
Here's the video (5:52)!

Hope You Had a Smashing Christmas!
Here's the Rudolf vs. Santa graphic. (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

New from Pongfinity!

Non-Table Tennis - My 2019 Books and Movies Listing
I read a lot and see a lot of movies. (I'm on the Regal Theater Unlimited plan - about $25/month - and there's a Regal theater one mile away, and so I see about two movies per week.) Here's a complete listing of the 68 books I read and 104 movies I saw in theaters in 2019.

Non-Table Tennis - Lancer Kind Interviews Chip Houser
Here's the science fiction podcast (11:52) that went up Dec. 11 at Lancer Kind's SciFi Thoughts. At 3:08, they talked about me for about 30 sec! Chip Houser said, "I do not write like Larry [Hodges] writes, he comes up with a thousand ideas, and he has very specific, wild, way-out-there stuff." Lancer said, "I interviewed Larry in Episodes 53 through 56. You'll find those in the show archive if you want to hear from the brainstorm that is Larry Hodges."

Non-Table Tennis - "Releasing Hitler"
My story, "Releasing Hitler," was published by Galaxy's Edge on Jan. 1. (See links on left.) What if, one million years from now, Hitler is paroled from Hell?

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